Rep Geoff Simpson, D-47th
Rep Geoff Simpson, D-47th

Publicola reports that Geoff Simpson, (D-47th), is stepping up to the plate! He’s got an amendment with over thirty signatures to counter Clibborn’s attack.

I’m told that we need calls to your representatives right now to convince them to sign on, as they have until about 5pm to get on board the quickly lengthening train and join the majority of the region to support East Link!

Please take a moment and make a call to each of your two representatives – ask them to sign Simpson’s amendment to protect light rail. You can find them with this handy district finder.

199 Replies to “Representative Simpson Defends East Link!”

  1. I already sent in an email to my legislators yesterday, do they get suspicious if more than one are sent? Just wondering, plus with the WSLC scandal, legislative emails might be under scrutiny.

    As for the Simpson Amendment way to go Geoff!

    1. This would be different – specifically about signing onto Simpson’s amendment. I don’t think they get suspicious, you’re a constituent, your opinion matters every day!

    1. Thank you so much! Anyone who’s doing this kind of thing, by the way, has a beer on me next meetup.

  2. Well, it’s a little bit discouraging one of our Seattle legislators didn’t sponsor this amendment. But we will take what we can get these days!

  3. It’s not easy to go up against your committee chair. Serious props for Rep. Simpson. We should send some thank you emails his way sometime soon too.

  4. Is there any sort of reference to this amendment?

    Also does anyone have a list of who’s signed on to it?

    1. There’s no list (nor do we want one, it would hurt signers if it fails).

      There’s no reference yet. Just say “the simpson amendment that removes the clibborn I-90 proviso”.

  5. 46th reps called. The staffer for Rep. Gutierrez Kenney seemed positive toward the call. Rep. White’s staffer was more formal.

  6. I e-mailed Sen. Kauffman, Rep. Simpson, and Rep. Sullivan on this matter. I have the pleasure of Simpson being my legislator, I hope he can pull it off.

      1. Oh, more than that. Every Eastside representative needs to have a legislative record that shows clear support for rail. And that means we have to really support the one or two who take the lead on this, in order to bring along the rest.

  7. I emailed my representative, Rep. Jay Rodne, who is on the transportation committee, yesterday. Haven’t gotten a reply yet though.

  8. Just got through to Glenn Anderson, left a message for Mr. Rodne. Let hope their phones are ringing off their hooks.

  9. Can’t call – at work – but I just sent off an email to my Murray, Chopp, and Pedersen. Let’s hope we pull this off.

    1. Dave Upthegrove of the 33rd e-mailed me back. Essentially he said he supports ST2 bu doesn’t support the amendment because he doesn’t feel East Link is in danger, people are blowing this out of proportion, blah blah blah. Not helpful!

    2. Less is more! Just build the damn road. There will be plenty of time to posture about airspace leases and maybe in two years there will be extra money in the coffers to pay for studies. Or maybe we’ll have a legislature that can figure it out on their own… You can always hope ;-)

      1. It at least strikes the appropriation for a study the State can ill afford and is unnecessary at this time. I firmly believe that anyone with executive experience would sit down and strike through 2/3rds of the BS proposed legislation and it would have zero net impact on governance. To put it in simple terms, we can’t afford what we need yet 2/3rds of what the legislature generates is not only unnecessary it does nothing but costs a great deal.

  10. I am not going to try to debate the details on a blog. But Upthegrove is right. Just the teeniest tad overblown. Yes.

    After session, I will sponsor a meeting at a site of your choosing, we’ll walk through this entire thing, substantively. Word for word of competing amendments. What they mean to ST, to light rail, to transit.

    Great theater, marginal policy.

    1. Oh, come on. You go between acting like you have all the answers and saying you have no idea and need to ask a staffer.

      You’ve got an asset assessment still in Jarrett’s Senate amendment, and apparently Clibborn has another amendment to do the same in the House. It’s just a delaying tactic, because the feds paid for that bridge and the state doesn’t get to put a price on it past capacity replacement, which Sound Transit’s R8A funding is already doing.

      If you want to debate details, start making substantive comments and backing them up with action. You’ve talked quite a bit, but Simpson’s the one who set things right.

    2. Regardless of these amendments, Rep. Eddy, two-way HOV is still not being funded by the state. Can you please give me an answer of why this is and if the state still intends the fund R8A in a manner that won’t delay East Link. In other words, when will there be funding for two-way HOV on I-90?

      1. Where’s the beef? It’s great to have our legislative representatives weight in on this blog. It truly is democracy in action. The bottom line is “show me the money”. Rep. Clibborn’s amendment funds a study. The outcome of that study has no relationship to why or when we complete R8A. In fact it is pure and simple wasted government spending for the current biennium. If this single issue is indicative of the entire budget then it’s no wonder the electorate is so opposed to granting yet more taxing authority.

      2. Meanwhile, on April 2, over in Bremerton, the Sound Transit Board held an all day retreat that included a celebration of Sound Transit’s Prop 1 victory of last November just now leading to doubled ST tax collections starting yesterday April 1.

        The board members also began to ponder what kinds of things would need to be done about the Sound Transit “Financial Situation.” Many expressed interest in getting menus of options from the Sound Transit staff.

        You’ve read the news already that the forecast of Sound Transit tax revenue through 2023 has fallen by $2.1 billion, from $15.8 billion to $13.7 billion. The East King County share of this gap is $478 million, a 12% drop from the $4.0 billion forecast of last July when the Prop 1 plan was being put together. The East King subarea revenue mostly pays for East Link light rail to Bellevue.

        If you think — unlike Reps Eddy and Upthegrove — that a “small, $30 million change in the coming state budget” will delay light rail to Bellevue “for years,” I wonder what a $478 million shortage would do?

      3. Hey, look! It’s the one guy who’s happy to see that R8A remains unfunded.
        http://www.responsibletransportationforum.org/2009/04/john-niles-on-r8a-funding-for-center-lanes-i-90-study-by-joint-transportation-committee/

        He claims that higher transit capacity is possible with buses, carpools, and vanpools (and we know that’s not true), and refers to us as “light rail fans”.

        Niles also doesn’t seem to realize is that construction costs, as we’ve seen, drop with the economy! Shh, don’t tell him about U Link’s $100m savings.

        Also, nobody mention to him that Sound Transit uses good project management principles and ensures contingency funds for their projects. There’s a lot of slack to be taken up before the downturn affects anything, and we won’t be issuing East Link contracts until 2014-15.

        Can everybody help me keep these secrets from our favorite anti-rail activist? It seems like he hasn’t picked up on them so far, so I think we’re doing okay.

      4. I’m getting tired of these made-up assertions by the opponents of transit. There simply is no truth to them and they are worth hardly a moment’s debate.

        The bottom line is that Link is a reality and so is ST2. The task at hand now is to see that ST2 gets implemented as well as the reformulated ST1 has been under Joni.

        These delaying tactics and artificial roadblocks ultimately will not stop Light Rail — they will only delay the implementation and drive up the costs.

        The opponents of transit aught to be realistic enough to accept that they have lost this battle and that they should move on.

        Think of it, if they spent as much time improving WSDOT as they do fighting transit, then maybe WSDOT would be held in just as high esteem as ST and the citizens would be willing to fund it to the same level.

        If that was the case then we wouldn’t be having this silly debate.

  11. For John Niles, the multi-decade fight against light rail (monorail=ok) has become a personal obsession, [deleted, ad-hominem]

    He and his right wing think tanks lose fight after fight, lawsuit after lawsuit.

    In an act of ironic rage, Niles and the hardcore transit opponents threw the baby out with the bathwater fighting Prop. 1 in 2007: the RTID project list was actually the Kemperites’ wet dream. And Niles helped kill it off forever, actually helping the passage of a transit-only package last year. Oops, right?

    And speaking of Niles and his pavement jihad: you will NEVER catch him criticizing massive cost escalation in roads projects. And Niles will NEVER whine about decreasing revenues which pay for his cherished freeways – unless, of course, he’s chiming in to help find a way to keep those pavement projects funded.

    Best joke of all: Niles the roadwarrior tries to pass himself off as a “green transit supporter.”

    John Niles [deleted, ad-hominem]

  12. Ben,

    Brian McCartan told the ST Board yesterday that savings on construction costs along current trend lines would make up for about half the forecast drop in construction costs.

    I recommend not counting U Link’s $100m savings until the digging gets a little closer to completion. It hasn’t started yet. In fact the contract to do the TBM digging has not been awarded.

    Indeed, “there’s a lot of slack to be taken up before the downturn affects” ST’s East Link project, which is why I am wondering about all the foaming by the light rail cheering section about the legislature doing its job of balancing resources and requirements across the entire multi-modal transportation system.

    Gabe, saying “willing to lie to satisfy his obsession and get paid for it” about me is quite pejorative and hurtful! Same with “blinding any sense of professional ethics or standards.” Do you believe that you are adding to the civility of community dialog by writing this way about me? Talk about “negativity and obsession.” Do you think writing this way about me will cause me to stop participating in the life of my community? You saying these things behind a shield of anonymity is quite troubling! Or does everybody on the Seattle Transit Blog except me know who “Gabe” is?

    Joni Earl and Mayor Nickels, as well as all other members of the ST staff and Board know me and treat me with respect. So does Ben Schiendelman. Who is this Gabe person?

    1. Correction and addendum:

      Brian McCartan [ST financial head] told the ST Board yesterday that savings on construction costs along current trend lines would make up for about half the forecast drop in ST tax revenues out through 2023.

    2. JN,

      I beg to differ.

      Joni and Mayor Nickels are total professionals and treat you with civility, but it would be an error on your part to interpret “civility” as “respect”. It is very clear from their public statements that they at the very least have NO respect for your opinions, and I’d hazard a guess that they have little to no “respect” for you in general – people who are driven predominately by ideology rarely garner much respect in professional circles.

      So, yes, they treat you civilly, but please don’t attempt to put words into their mouths by asserting that this means that they “respect” you and that therefore we should to – that is a huge stretch and won’t fly with the thinking public.

    3. John,
      You have indeed garnered the reputation of being our local version of Wendell Cox. Don’t expect to wander into a pro-transit and pro-rail blog and be greeted much better than you have.

      Sure I’d treat you with “respect” at a public hearing or when debating you in a neutral forum. But I’m going to mock you a bit rather than rehashing the same old debate once again when you are in a forum favoring my views.

  13. I figure that the $30 million cost of the I-90 study will be quickly offset by LINK’s higher than anticipated fares.

    Let’s see an additional $0.75 a ride X 42,000 daily rides x 360 days/year = $11 million annually in additional revenue beyond ST’s initial forecast. Hope it doesn’t all get eaten up by higher than forecast operating expenses. (One can always hope, can’t they?)

    I can’t imagine that it conceivably could significantly delay East Link’s opening day, the only day that really matters (unless you’re an employee of the construction trades. The only ‘opening day’ that matters to them is when the first shovel breaks ground. Then it’s CAVU….)

    1. Link fares aren’t any higher than anticipated. There were two options, and I could be mistaken, but I thought both generated similar revenue.

      1. Well, then you haven’t been reviewing ST’s long-term financial plan, upon which all their FFGA submissions are based. In their plans, they were assuming $0.98 fare revenue per rider for 2009 in current-year dollars. But LINK will open with a $1.75 base fare. That’s a 75% higher than assumed/planned fare.

        Sorry, Ben. Maybe you can get one of those long-term financial plans and see for yourself. I don’t think ST has destroyed ALL of them, and fortunately a few of them have circulated beyond their borders, thanks to the state’s Public Disclosure Act.

      2. Well, if ST plans assumed $0.98 fare revenue per rider then a $1.75 base fare less cost (fare recovery goal is 54%) comes out to be $0.95 revenue which is about three and a half percent lower than planned; pretty darn close.

      3. “..then a $1.75 base fare less cost (fare recovery goal is 54%) comes out to be $0.95 revenue..”

        Nice try. You mistake $1.75 as if it were *cost* per rider. Multiplying cost, even an imaginary cost, by a farebox recovery ratio doesn’t magically make the result into “revenue”.

        [Comment edited, ad hominem]

      4. (Required): Stop attacking people. We are fine with disagreement, but let’s be respectful toward each other. Bernie isn’t a light rail booster himself, so stop being a jerk.

        On substance, see Martin’s comment below. Passes & transfers will certainly make up the biggest portion of the gap you identify.

      5. Bernie and (Required), $1.75 is just what a cash paying rider would pay. Metro isn’t necessarily giving Sound Transit much money for pass use, and the majority of users – the daily commuters – are almost always pass users.

      6. “and the majority of users – the daily commuters – are almost always pass users.”

        So, let’s see. How large a share of total daily ridership must be pass users – and how deep must their pass provide as a discount off the cash fare – to produce an average of $0.98 farebox revenue per rider when the cash fare is $1.75?

        Roughly speaking (without resorting to a spreadsheet), this could happen if *ALL* the riders ride on passes and the discount is 50% off the cash fare

        -OR-

        HALF the riders ride on passes and their discount is 100% off the cash fare (i.e. free)

        -OR-

        Any linear combination between these two.

        Which means the “pass discount” would HAVE to be far greater than the ~15% Metro’s pass prices represent and far greater than the 30% the state ferries provide to their frequent riders.

        [Comment edited, ad hominem] — thought I’d save you the time

      7. (R),

        You just don’t understand how passes work at all. The discount is quite small, actually, unless you use it for more than going to work. The point is that you actually buy the pass from the local transit agency, which then shares the revenue with ST according to a formula.

        When someone boards the train with an unlimited-use pass, ST gets much less than full fare because there’s a slight discount and that revenue is shared with Metro, CT, PT, or whomever.

      8. So, you’re saying my math is accurate, eh?

        I know how passes work, I was just translating it into math, with which you lodged no complaint.

        My question then is this: when the issue of ST light rail was debated and the vote taken, were taxpayers made aware that they’d be asked not merely to build this multi-billion system over ~15-20 years, but also to subsidize commuters whose fares, as collected by ST, will range between free ($0.00 per pass rider – the ‘50% of riders use passes’ scenario) to a buck ($0.98 per pass rider – the ‘100% of riders use passes’ scenario)?

        Those are waaay less than bus fares, which many taxpayers in the region pay. How is having this equitable?

        You may disagree with me, but this is the *inescapable* implication (i.e. it’s the outcome of the math) of Ben Schiendelman’s above assertion that ST’s recent adoption of a $1.75 base fare for light rail is consistent with ST’s assumption of $0.98 per light rail rider for 2009 opening year.

        I’ve gone through this exercise to prove that the $1.75 fare *isn’t* consistent -indeed the newly-chosen LRT base fare is 75% higher than ST has long assumed it would be. The fact that some slice of the riders will ride on passes doesn’t change the inconsistency revealed by the math.

        Indeed, the presence of regional passes and the revenue-sharing mechanism that underlie them suggests that the assertion elsewhere that ST rail cannot possibly eat into bus budgetary resources because their respective agency budgets are ‘firewalled’ from each other is patently false.

        All this leaves me to ask: why has ST chosen to almost double their fare level? And exactly how are bus and rail budgets firewalled? Anyone got an answer?

      9. First of all,

        Although they’re completely different fare structures, it turns out that Metro and Link fares will be almost identical in 2009.

        I’m not sure what you’re trying to prove anymore. We’ve established that it’s entirely consistent to have a $1.75 base fare result in $0.98 recovered by ST per rider.

        If you agree that ST’s revenue will be $0.98 per rider, and that’s what’s in ST’s plans, what’s the problem? The actual customer fare is neither here nor there. I don’t think it is or was a secret that ST will “subsidize commuters” as is done with every significant mode of commuting except, arguably, walking and riding bikes.

        I’ll readily concede that the whole way the various transit agencies divide up the cash they generate is a confusing jumble, but that’s inevitable given overlapping jurisdictions and a lack of good data. Hopefully, ORCA will help to generate some reasonably accurate information about ridership patterns and allow the agencies to untangle the spaghetti.

      10. “We’ve established that it’s entirely consistent to have a $1.75 base fare result in $0.98 recovered by ST per rider.”

        No you haven’t; the math behind that assertion remains AWOL.

        Let me point to a further, related inconsistency that will help illustrate why the math behind your ‘entirely consistent’ claim is AWOL.

        In their long-term financial plan (again, the basis for all their FFGA submissions), LRT farebox revenue was planned to cover 22% of its O&M expenses.

        Now, with the $1.75 “base” fare (in practice, $2.00 per trip) ST claims LRT will recover 52% of its operating and maintenance cost.

        That’s a whopping big change from their long-term plan, another major deviation between what they’ve just done and what they’d been planning for years.

        Yet Ben Scheindelman maintains that “Sound Transit’s planning for these projects has been top-notch.” If so, how does he excuse this significant deviation from their plan?


        My two cents: I’d say adopting a significantly higher fare schedule is intended to help prop-up LRT’s decaying financial prospects as they will likely continue to diverge from plan. (Or is ST looking to higher fares to bail-out the now-projected $2-3 billion long-term shortfall in locally-generated taxes? Good luck with that!)

      11. Can you link to something that proves that ST is planning for a 22% recovery in 2016/2017? The 2009 recovery will be about 23%, ST estimates.

        My response will be the same regardless: who really minds if ST has a better farebox recovery seven years from now? This isn’t something happening tomorrow and you can’t realistically build capital costs around a farebox recovery ratio from the future. One argument of light rail is its better farebox recovery (i.e. efficiency), so I’d be pleased to see a strong recovery ratio. But again, a small amount of money seven years from now is pretty trivial in the context of a $2.1bn shortfall. It sounds like you’re well-informed, which is great, but you’re focusing on such a small bore issue here!

      12. A 75% higher fare is a “small bore” issue? I don’t think so. See if Metro can get by with that – or the state ferries.

        Sure it won’t fill the $2.1 Billion projected tax shortfall, since forecast Phase I LRT revenues only total $205 million through 2025 — it’s pretty hard to squeeze $2 billion more from that. I was merely jesting that ST was back-filling that sinkhole by adopting a higher fare schedule.

        I’m sorry I can’t provide a link to what I reference — it’s from the worksheet on one tab in a (I can’t count them all, I’d say somewhere around 30-tab) spreadsheet of interwoven calculations that constitute ST’s detailed long-range financial plan, covering ridership, fare revenues, tax revenues, construction spending by LOB and debt financing and such for which only high-level “summaries” are presented at ST’s website.

        I’d be happy to provide a screenshot of the page showing farebox recovery ratios from 2009 through 2025 that rise from the low-teens (13% and 14%) in 2009 and 2010, eventually reaching 25.1% ten years later in 2020 and a high of 25.9% in 2025. But I’m unaware this blog supports attaching image files. So you’ll have to take my word for it.

        That said, the significant deviation the $1.75 base fare is troubling for a reason that connects directly to the ‘McFadden discussion’ above or elsewhere here re: modeling consumer behavior (“discrete choice”) and, specifically, the forecasting of ridership for LINK.

        I gotta believe all ST’s light rail ridership forecasts to date have reflected an assumed fare schedule that ‘produces’ $0.98 fare revenue per ride on LINK. Now, it appears riders will be paying 75% more than that.

        If this higher fare schedule had been the basis of ST’s planning, what would it have meant for the ridership forecast for LINK between the airport and downtown, long presented at 42,000 daily riders? There is, after all, something known as elasticity of demand.

        If ST had accurately projected what LINK’s fare schedule would really be, might the resulting ridership forecast been oh, 20-25% lower than 42,000 daily riders? Perhaps as low as 30,000 daily riders? Yet LINK’s construction cost would still have been $2.1 Billion. Might that cost:rider metric have meant FTA wouldn’t have been able to award LINK the multiple FFGAs, which depended upon a “high” cost-effectiveness score and FTA’s “recommended” rubber-stamp?

        Why did ST have in its plans a $0.98 per ride revenue assumption? (That figure rises to only $1.56 by 2025 on the same page I referenced earlier. That’s still below the “base fare” they’re planning to open with.)

        Was understating the fare schedule necessary to ‘gin up’ enough ridership in their ridership forecasting model for a line they knew or suspected wouldn’t produce anywhere near as much ridership as would have been produced if they had chosen to ‘go North’ rather than toward the airport back in 2000 when they realized money from the 1996 vote wouldn’t be enough to fulfill their promise of a 17-mile line from the University to the airport (and if there proved to be enough money, even up to Northgate)? That’s a big, outstanding question.

        Were they simply seeking to clear hurdles that separated the system planners/champions from the money they envied to build the rail transit line they’d been denied in the early ’70’s?

        That’s entirely plausible, perhaps even probable. They knew how to work around all the taxpayer protections in FTA rules (and in state laws) and they embarked on a long journey of several years to work around them. All their promises, hyped to and through the local media, worked — they broke through to that cache of money. (A U.S. Senator on the Appropriations Committed helped a lot, too.)

        Now, as opening day nears, and the veil is being drawn back to reveal the bride’s face, among the surprises is a fare structure that appears to be quite different from what they’d been planning all along (well, at least showing to the FTA in all their grant applications.)

        I’m not surprised by this possibility. The whole project, from the 1988 straw-vote on, has been to sell us a pig in a poke (loose description). This shares a very similar pattern with the maneuvering/manipulation found by investigations into the Big Dig project in Boston. That was ugly and so is this.

        And now ST wants to lay claim to I-90 and beyond….they’ve laid the groundwork from as far back as the MOA when light rail was merely a glimmer in the eye of a handful of people. We’ll see how well their long-veiled plans will unfold….

      13. “One argument of light rail is its better farebox recovery (i.e. efficiency)”

        Bear in in mind that one can be very *efficient* in an *ineffective* pursuit. One might say the U.S. military was very efficient in Iraq, but how effective was that endeavor?

      14. I don’t hace any interest in talking about ridership or farebox recovery years in the future, so I won’t. I don’t know what will happen this year in terms of ridership nor beyond.

        And now ST wants to lay claim to I-90 and beyond…. they’ve laid the groundwork from as far back as the MOA when light rail was merely a glimmer in the eye of a handful of people. We’ll see how well their long-veiled plans will unfold….

        How dastardly. If only there were a public vote on the matter.

      15. Assuming $1.75 revenue per rider is enormously simplistic, considering youth and disabled fares, and the various complications around transfers and passes.

  14. Lazarus:

    All I’m talking about is what I think is unfairness and inaccuracy of the descriptive terms about me that I quoted from Gabe above.

    I’m not trying to put words in anybody’s mouth. I’m also not asking for respect in this blog beyond please holding back on the libel spewing from Gabe that I quoted above.

    1. John, do you suppose you could use the ‘reply to this comment’ button to keep conversations all bundled together?

      Instead of worrying about Gabe, why don’t you listen to the real responses you’re getting? ST2 includes measures to handle some funding shortfalls. Construction costs will also cover some of the shortfalls. Contingency funds will as well.

      I’m not looking at U Link as a way to help fund East Link. I’m looking at U Link as an example of bids coming in far under projections. Central Link will also have $125 million or so left over when it opens (barring litigation). There’s reason to believe this will continue to be the case – Sound Transit’s planning for these projects has been top-notch.

    2. I think the point is that “over-budget” is a lot worse than “can’t raise enough money.” Since we’ve entered the worse financial crisis since the 70’s or even before, I don’t think people will fault Sound Transit for not being able to raise money on the exact schedule it had outlined. That doesn’t translate to anything going over-budget nor has it affected the schedule yet.

    3. JN:

      I might have worded things a little differently than Gabe, but I don’t find his comments to be particularly inaccurate or unfair. Like it or not, you’ve developed a reputation over all these years of fighting transit – it’s time to live with it.

      And “libel”? Pleeeease… Put on your “big boy pants” and move on.

  15. I just realized the hugely symbolic nature of having East Link use the I-90 center roadway. I believe this will be the first time in the US freeway lanes (and on a Federal Interstate no less) have been converted to passenger rail use.

    If there was ever a signal the age of the auto and mindless, endless freeway expansion is over it would be this. No wonder the pavement lobby is freaking out.

    To be fair, this was pointed out by none other than John Niles on a comment thread over at the Seattle Times. Of course he sees this as a reason not to “waste” money on East Link and cites wildly inaccurate numbers to back his claim.

    1. Guys,

      It might help for everyone to review our comment policy.

      We believe in a light touch here, but the one of the initial anti-Niles comments veered into the ad-hominem, and I’ve edited it.

      Any further comments dealing not with substantive issues but instead devoted to arguing about the argument will be deleted.

      1. Sorry Martin.

        I wasn’t really trying to be anti-Niles in the parent comment. The bit about East Link being the first conversion of freeway lanes to rail was really my point.

  16. Chris, I don’t mind being mocked and criticized. It’s being libeled that I don’t like.

    I perceive that some of you Sound Transit cheerleaders like shooting back at me … find it entertaining … I don’t mind that (absent scurrilous libel from whoever Gabe is … specifically, the phrases I quoted above).

    In return I’ll try to insert a few tidbits that I pick up attending events that the members of this Blog do not attend. Like the completely fascinating Sound Transit board meeting in Bremerton yesterday! Is anybody curious about what was said? I was shocked that nobody participating in this blog was over there blogging from the room. The Kitsap Conference Center had wi-fi going.

    Chris, one question for you … is it totally unbelievable and irrational that I am a life-long supporter of transit that runs on roads, and formerly was a strong supporter of rail transit (when I worked for the Mayor of District of Columbia in the 1970s) but then more recently (20 years ago) became a non-supporter of building light rail transit in Seattle for the reason (simplified) that it costs too much and does too little?

    I’m fully aware that mine is a minority position! So what?

    My position is somewhat analogous to that of the Los Angeles Bus Riders Union, which sued LA Metro some years ago for putting too much money into trains at the expense of buses. This organization is pro-transit (buses) and anti-rail, yes? Is that ridiculous? I don’t think so. Robbing bus transit to build rail transit is exactly what’s happening around Seattle. (News from Bremerton yesterday: the three Sound Transit contracts with the county transit agencies for ReX service are being renegotiated by the end of this year.)

    I fully recognize that it is politically useful to call somebody like me “anti-transit” when I am only anti-rail (especially for Western Washington — I’m not working against rail in other places, though of course I am sympathetic to general anti-rail arguments by the national players like Wendell Cox).

    Just for a moment, consider the possibility that somebody (and I’m not alone) can be pro-transit, and anti-rail.

    1. “but then more recently (20 years ago) became a non-supporter of building light rail transit in Seattle for the reason (simplified) that it costs too much and does too little” — this comment leads me to believe you don’t really read much of this blog, otherwise you’d see kinship with those who argue against the Streetcar for exactly those same reasons. Or BRT. Or at-grade LRT. And so on and so forth.

      I have reason to suspect, just based on the history of WMATA that you’ve probably got a single-mode bias (just out of college/my first job, oh man, working with the mayor on his rail plans!) but ended up jaded for some reason, probably because at first, Metrorail didn’t quite live up to expectations for one reason or another (or did very well) and so you probably judge all other plans pretty critically against that first experience of yours.

      This all ignores, of course, that you willingly put yourself out there and should understand that you’re a lightning rod.

      1. AJ, I must confess I haven’t read this blog consistently. I pick it up selectively via references elsewhere.

        If I understand your first paragraph point, a particular route/line in any mode can come out costing too much and doing too little — compared to alternatives. I quite agree. Transit agencies nationwide analyze bus routes for the worst performing, and make them candidates for elimination when funding gets tight. I’ve been studying how that works in a funded project this past year … my real work currently is working in bus transit analysis, a nice alignment with my civic interest.

        No, DC Govt was not my first job out of college (4 years mathematics BS, 2 years business administration MS) — I was a Vietnam era draft-motivated volunteer into the U.S. Navy, protecting the country against Russian submarines which at the time had missiles aimed at us from not too far offshore. My career goal when I became a civilian again was to become a city manager, something I later found to be not good for me.

        The National Capital Metro Rail was not a DC Govt project. I was more an observer and user. I was living in DC (Ford and Carter administration) as it was built and the first lines (Red and Blue, partially) ramped up. I was a fan, and remained a fan the whole time I was there. Still a fan, actually. I use MetroRail every time I visit DC. I am the proud owner of a Barack Obama Inauguration Day SmartTrip RFID fare card, which works on both Metro Buses and Metro Rail … looking forward, as a change fumbling bus rider, for having an ORCA card to user here in Seattle.

        What I get from National Capitol Metro Rail for Seattle are a variety of pertinent perceptions, which I don’t have time to detail at this moment. Your comment that I “probably judge all other plans pretty critically against that first experience” is not true.

        I’ll have to pick this up later … gotta run.

  17. WMATA, a creation of Congress and signed into law byPresident Lyndon Johnson in 1966, has spent an estimated $9.4 billion over twenty-five years, virtually all from direct federal appropriations (i.e. no local taxes) , on a 101-mile Metro rail system. Recently, WMATA proposed a 10-year, $12 Billion plan to add a 114-mile “web” of light rail and rapid bus lines. “This is the approach to transit we’ve been missing,” says the chair of WMATA’s board.

    Gee, kinda sounds a bit like ST2, huh? There’s always a piece missing….

  18. “My position is somewhat analogous to that of the Los Angeles Bus Riders Union, which sued LA Metro some years ago for putting too much money into trains at the expense of buses.”

    As usual, Niles is misconstruing the situation. The issue in LA was that they combined the budgets of buses and trains. Monthly passes for ethnicly diverse bus riders were eliminated, and new funds were diverted so a train to “white” Pasadena could be built. Which made the primarily transit-dependent bus riders very mad.

    Totally different situation here, on many different levels. But the facts never get in the way of Niles scare tactics and doomsday predictions. Niles obsesses with this case study, which is nearly 15 years in the past.

    “This organization is pro-transit (buses) and anti-rail, yes? Is that ridiculous? I don’t think so. Robbing bus transit to build rail transit is exactly what’s happening around Seattle.”

    This robbery exists only in Niles’ “minority opinionators'” minds. Yup, Kemper Freeman should be consulted for his excellent advice on public transit! For mass transit opponents like John Niles (who believes vanpools constitute public transit) it’s a zero sum game. So, every publicly-supported tax increase for light rail means less dollars for his extremely expensive and unsustainable all-bus concept.

    There is a huge difference between LA in 1994 and Seattle in 2009, if you actually look beyond the anti-rail activists’ rhetoric and scare tactics.

    “I am a life-long supporter of transit that runs on roads, and formerly was a strong supporter of rail transit (when I worked for the Mayor of District of Columbia in the 1970s)”

    John Niles has stated on several public message boards that his opposition to rail began when his one-seat ride bus to work was replaced by a Metro subway train, full of communters. So, Niles was a supporter of rail in that he liked the concept of subways; but he embarked upon a multi-decade career fighting rail once HIS bus was re-routed in favor of a highly popular subway.

    “but then more recently (20 years ago) became a non-supporter of building light rail transit in Seattle for the reason (simplified) that it costs too much and does too little?”

    Yet, for all his decades touting support for a conceptual BRT concept, Niles and his other fake transit supporting friends have NEVER made an attempt to design a BRT system would “cost less and do more.” For obvious reasons, of course. Niles spent years touting Monorail as “costing less and doing more” until an actual plan left the conceptual phase, and met reality.

    “I’m not working against rail in other places”

    Also total bunk. John Niles took a trip to Honolulu last year to share his “pave Hawaii” message with a patently anti-transit organization.

    http://honolulutraffic.com/Niles-SeattleRailTalk208.pdf

    1. I went to Hawaii on vacation, told a friend in Honolulu I was in town, and got the invite to talk to a small group of rail opponents in exchange for a free lunch. I talked about Seattle, not Hawaii.

      The presentation I made February 22, 2008 represents what I was thinking in between the Puget Sound Roads & Transit Prop 1 that was defeated and the Puget Sound “Mass Transit Now” Prop 1 that won big. I expect that most readers of this blog would find it interesting, even while not agreeing with what it says. If anybody thinks the facts in the presentation are wrong, I’d be happy to respond with sources.

      Now that Sound Transit has successfully doubled its tax collections, Sound Transit Board member Julia Patterson was moved to remark at the Board retreat last Thursday, people around Puget Sound LOVE trains. My sense of the retreat is that the Board is now worried about whether there is enough money available in the new tax stream to give the people in all part of the region the trains they obviously love and want. One of Ms. Patterson’s suggestions on how to make the money go further in South King is to consider making all the light rail stations down in that area as close to the same design as possible, to save money.

  19. This is the way John Niles told the story on 3/25/07:

    I myself was a huge fan of rail-based transit in the 1970s in Washington, DC, where I worked in the DC Mayor’s Office. When people came to me back then criticizing the construction of the DC Metro as costing too much and doing too little, I reacted something like Snorow reacts to me today, only not so venomously.

    It was only when I found the initiation of the DC Metro Red Line increased my personal daily transit commute time to work that I began to reconsider the impact of rail transit. I was already aware working in the DC Budget Office of the HUGE future expense implications that MetroRail would bring to the DC area, which have been verified in the decades since.

    When I moved to Seattle in 1982 and discovered that Metro buses worked so well compared to rail lines I had experienced in other cities, my attitude conversion toward urban passenger railroads was accelerated.

  20. JamesS comments that “[Niles and friends] have NEVER made an attempt to design a BRT system would “cost less and do more.

    And I suppose YOU have made an attempt to design an LRT system that would cost less and do more? Or do you simply hide behind the multi-millions of dollars of “work” by PB-Kaiser, RTA and ST? Have YOU ever lifted a pencil to this task? If so, please cite your work. Until then, your comment remains simply hot air.

    1. (R),

      Sorry, but you are dead wrong about the commitment of the people on this blog and others to effective mass transit. Many of us have been very involved on various levels, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with working with ST (or simply supporting them) in their efforts to bring effective mass transit to this region. It is not “hiding” to recognize the good work that ST has done lately and to work for its continuance.

      Please everyone, ignore these distractions by JNiles and others and keep your eye and efforts on Oly. I guarantee you that an email to your Rep in Oly has more chance of influencing policy than a post debating JNiles et el.

      Focus on Oly, that is the point of this thread.

      1. “it is not “hiding” to recognize the good work that ST has done lately”

        No? Would you feel better if I called it cheerleading? I suppose you will, since you, too, are so Gen-Xish.

      2. No more personal attacks or Gen-X stuff. Chill out.

        Your argument is a bit flawed. We don’t need to develop a plan for light rail. We had a plan to vote on. The argument was presented that we shouldn’t execute our light rail plan because we do BRT instead. It is hardly incredulous to point out that in those circumstances a BRT plan didn’t exist while a light rail plan did exist. If you are going to propose alternatives then surely there is an expectation that those alternatives have plans behind them.

        I’m more Gen-Y.

      3. “We don’t need to develop a plan for light rail. We had a plan to vote on”

        And you [Comment edited, ad hominem], because you couldn’t find anything in the plan to disagree with or that was less than optimal. Like surface alignment, tunneling costs or the one-two punch of dismal ridership projections and paltry congestion relief — all for an extraordinary public cost.

        [Comment edited, ad hominem]

      4. I found things in the plan to disagree with but that disagreement wasn’t enough to make me vote against it. Unlike some I don’t expect everything to be absolutely perfect before action is taken.

        “Like surface alignment, tunneling costs or the one-two punch of dismal ridership projections and paltry congestion relief — all for an extraordinary public cost.”

        Not exactly sure what you are complaining about here. While U-Link and North Link might be expensive they have one of the highest scores ever received for a FTA grant application. Furthermore the corridor they serve is pretty much maxed out for bus service. I don’t see how without great expense bus service in those areas could match the service levels of Link.

        As for dismal ridership projections, in comparison to what? The ridership projections for Link are very good compared to other new rail systems in the US. I suspect if anything they are a tad conservative.

        Extraordinary public cost is relative too. How much is being spent widening I-405 by one lane in each direction? How much will be spent rebuilding the 520 corridor? How much is the SR-99 projected to cost? A lot of rail transit could be build for the cost of any of those projects.

      5. “I don’t expect everything to be absolutely perfect before action is taken.”

        [Comment edited, ad hominem] But did you ever even *point* to anything in the plan that could be improved? Or did you just sit back and observe, cheering from the bleachers? In short, were you even a player? Were you on the field?

        [Comment edited, ad hominem]

      6. No I didn’t actively participate in the process shaping ST2 other than writing some board members In 2008 expressing a desire to see a transit only measure on the ballot in November. What of I? That is more involved than most voters ever get. Even though I haven’t had much in the way of time or desire to be an active participant in politics I’m a keen enough observer to recognize a desire for perfection getting in the way of taking any action at all. It is particularly noticable in the “process” we are so infamous for locally.

      7. And what’s wrong with that? I’ll admit that I’m an ST cheerleader, and I’m also not blind to their shortcomings. Why should anybody be ashamed to stand behind something they believe in? Frankly, why should anybody give any credence to someone who is too chicken to post their name? At least John Niles will put his name behind his opinions. Do you have anything constructive to add to the conversation? Or just useless criticism? Everyone is entitled to their opinion, however, I think you have mistaken criticism for opinion.

    2. “And I suppose YOU have made an attempt to design an LRT system that would cost less and do more?”

      Um, I’m not advocating for an alternative technology or alignment. I don’t support the politicization of transit for the purpose of grinding axes, and satifying grudges.

      Are you playing troll today, (Required), or do you have an actual point to make? As it is, this thread got off topic….and I apologize for playing a role in the diversion.

      1. According to a couple of legislators, this whole thread is off topic. Lot of heat yielding little or no light. How Seattle!!

        [Comment edited, ad hominem]

      2. Oh, well if a couple of legislators say so! Why don’t they contact us?

        It’s an issue enough to have Simpson present an amendment and have Sound Transit state publicly that without R8A funding the project will be delayed.

      3. Those legislators aren’t posting here. And anyways, I’m directing my comments at you.

  21. “The issue in LA was that they combined the budgets of buses and trains.”

    But you slyly don’t say whether that combined budget had any detrimental effect on the level of bus service. I believe a federal court found otherwise.

  22. It obviously did. Which is why almost all regional transit authorities put a firewall between bus and rail budgets. Sound Transit goes an extra step, with their subarea equity policies. So, for instance, Eastside bus service funds cannot be used to build light rail in Seattle.

    Not sure what point you’re trying to make. If any.

    That court decision was LA Bus Riders’ Union pinnacle. It’s been all downhill since. Now, all they do is argue transit planners are racist.

  23. He has no point — the situation here and the situation that led to the LS Bus Rider’s Union are about as opposite as they can be.

    Your points are well taken — the situations are completely different. It’s not an issue here.

    Time to get back to focusing on Oly.

    1. Yeah, it was just an “isolated incident” that could never, ever happen here. Uh-huh, sure.

      My ‘point’ was your comment dismissed any parallel with the situation in Seattle and disputed there was any effect on bus service in LA, when in fact there was a pretty severe effect. A court found so.

      You guys should actually try to listen to your arguments. This blog is more like an echo-chamber.

      1. It can’t happen here because Metro and Sound Transit are separate agencies. Sound Transit was created solely for regional transit and primarily rail transit. There is no threat that local bus service is being hurt by ST’s fundnig.

      2. Yeah, right. Where did you learn that money -for taxpayer-financed transportation or any purpose- is an infinite resource (i.e. one agency’s budget cannot possibly impinge on the other)? Let me guess – at the Kennedy School of Government, right? That’s where Ethan Melone learned that streetcars have no opportunity cost. Yes, Virginia, money *does* grow on trees.

      3. Ummm, (Required) it’s apparent you aren’t really interested in even trying to keep discussion on a rational level, but for the benefit of those who are, let me add to John Jensen’s message — not only are Metro Transit and Sound Transit separate agencies, their funding sources (taxes) have been approved by two sets of voters. King County voters of course for Metro, and the 3-county region’s voters for Sound Transit.

        And as a political animal myself, I can say without equivocation that had Sound Transit put an all-bus scheme to its regional voters, call it BRT or whatever, but had it been buses only, for now and for ever, I can assure you that voters would have defeated it. Call them ignorant if you wish, but voters have a basic sense of the difference between buses and trains. Lots of us have been to Portland and Vancouver and San Francisco. We understand that when cities reach a certain size and when regions reach a certain complexity, buses alone, no matter how they’re dolled up, can’t do the job by themselves for ever.

        John lost his one seat bus ride to work when DC Metro came on line years ago, and he’s hated rail ever since. But returning to DC today, can he envision that city operating efficiently with long lines of buses in lieu of those Metro rail lines? He may say Yes, but I suspect the rest of us would say No, rail is essential to that city’s basic operation. Same thing people will say about Seattle in 35 years.

      4. Yes yes yes! You’ve hit a bunch of great points.

        I always just consider Sound Transit to be a rail agency that happens to have some buses to build ridership for their eventual buildout. :)

      5. Call them ignorant if you wish, but voters have a basic sense of the difference between buses and trains.

        I didn’t call voters ignorant, you suggested they might be. And whatever you may mean by “the difference between buses and trains” is open to question. That’s a pretty vague statement.

        If I’m not mistaken a fellow from UC Berkeley (or MIT, I forget which) by the name of Daniel McFadden was awarded a Nobel Prize in Economics in ~2000 for his econometric work spanning the 1970’s and 1980’s proving, among other things, that it doesn’t matter whether you call it a bus or a train, transit ridership depends *solely* on service characteristics such as 1) frequency of service; 2) cost (really fare charged, because the full cost is rarely recovered); 3) speed of service; and 4) accessibility to the service (e.g. time/cost getting to it). He found NO inherent residual attraction to rail over bus; that is, there was no statistically significant correlation between a *mode* and its ridership levels.

        Would you have us believe that the Nobel committee was duped? If so, present your evidence.

        Yes, I’m a contrarian. (What else could I be in this echo-chamber of a blog?)

        But “irrational”? There’s no evidence of that — just plenty of evidence that none of you can (or will) grasp what I’m informing you of. That’s why echo-chambers are dangerous sounding boards. They amplify nonsense passed between the uniformed, inexperienced and unwitting. Sorry for the wake-up call….

        John Jensen whistles past the graveyard when he remarks, “it can’t happen here.” We’ll see.

      6. Please don’t take a poor argument from authority with this Nobel prize business. You’re wrong:
        1) That’s not what he won the Nobel prize for. He won the prize for coming up with a framework for modeling discrete choices: we don’t buy cars every week, we do buy food every week, a different framework is needed to model car purchases (discrete choices) and food purchases (continuous choices). He talked mode choice (cars vs bus vs subway) but saying he won the nobel prize because he proved people like buses as much as trains is a huge mischaracterisation.

        2) Whether or not he believes/believed that buses and trains have no significant difference in ridership in his theoritical model, real world evidence proves that to be not the case: given the choice of a bus or a train people choose the train. This has been shown over and over and over again when train systems have replaced comparable bus systems. Don’t believe the evidence thus far (we’ve provided ample)? Wait until Link opens this summer).

        3) In the real world, a reliable frequency of service for buses is more difficult to maintain than that for trains (dedicated right-of-way, etc.), speed of service is more difficult to maintain (buses sit in traffic, trains can be grade-separated). Even if you gave the buses the same level of dedicated right-of-ways, you’d still be stuck with the problem that 800 people can fight on one link train (for example) but you’d need ten buses to car that many people. The ten buses cost much more to operate.

        4) You also ignore what is called “transit oriented development” which is private investment that is built around dedicated transportation. This is part practicality, part basic signalling theory: generally, the higher capacity and more permanent the transportation option, the larger the investment. This is why Microsoft is clustered around 520 and not sr-401 (or whatever) and why the skyscrapers go up in around I-5, SR-99, I-90 and SR-520 in Seattle, and SR-520, I-405 and I-90 in Bellevue and not in Woodinville, or in Auburn or where ever.

        There’s nothing wrong with BRT. When I took the 545, I took BRT every day. BRT is something different than light rail and has a different use. BRT is great for getting from West Seattle to Downtown or from Capitol Hill to Redmond but it’s not so great for getting from the airport to every major location in the region. If you wanted to do that you’d need buses from the airport to every major location, and it’d cost a ton more than LRT and probably get a bit less riders.

        We’ve gone over these arguments ad nauseum here. The “echo chamber” critism strikes me as one where you just don’t like what we’re saying. Some of us don’t like BRT at all, others of us like it in theory but have trouble with the implementations and others love it in all incarnations.

        If you’ve got personal problems with us, too bad. This isn’t the place to air them.

      7. All choices are discrete — even food choices.

        I didn’t say he won for “proving people liked buses as much as trains”. Where’d you get that from what I said?

        I said he could find no significant correlation between mode choice and the name or physical characteristics of the mode; he found that it’s the *value proposition* (e.g. service characteristics and cost) that determines one’s choice of transit mode — not whether it runs on rubber tires over the road or on steel rails.

        P.S. he used real world data as his evidence; not the anecdotal stuff you guys pass around.

        P.P.S. Nobel is spelled n-o-b-e-l, not n-o-b-l-e as you spelled it twice.

        I also got a kick out of “800 people can fight on one link train”. No they can’t — there’s not enough room with that many people stuffed into four LINK cars (the max. train length you’ll ever see).

      8. but saying he won the noble [sic] prize because he proved people like buses as much as trains is a huge mischaracterisation”

        What do *you* mean by “like”? What McFadden measured was “revealed choice”, not the breathless fantasizing rail-o-philes have with trains.

        Sure some LRT systems showed traffic levels beyond projections – for awhile while people from far and wide came to marvel at this new attraction – but soon tapered off. Hasn’t ridership in St. Louis slipped from the much-hyped figures in its first year, 1998?

        Gee, why should that be a surprise — Mark McGwire was engaged in a slugging duel with Sammy Sosa that year, with both eventually easily breaking Babe Ruth’s homerun record. It was a “steroid” season for baseball and for St. Louis’ light rail line.

        I think I’ve read that St. Louis is now planning to cut light rail service. Why would they resort to service cuts if ridership were growing by leaps and bounds? Might it be too expensive relative to its highly touristy/weekend ridership? Or is East St. Louis not growing very rapidly? Hmmmm, that’s a puzzler….

      9. (Required) You don’t know enough about economics (choices that are made continuously are not discrete choices) to try to be an expert (I at least have a degree in econ) and you know nothing about light rail trains (Link trains hold up to 800 people, each car holds 200).

        Look at his nobel prize lecture: he didn’t use real world data; I have found no where he used real data. You are incorrect and trying to create an argument from authority with a Nobel Prize winner as your back up, and it’s all the more embarassing that you are completely wrong.

        And where does it say “noble” instead of “nobel”?

      10. McFadden crafted a mechanism -indeed, an entire field (which explains the Nobel- by which to predict how someone will choose between two or more available options.

        His work, based in econometric methods, has been cited prominently in the transportation field since the mid-70’s. I’ve been aware of it since then, being instructed in it as part of a transportation economics program in my graduate school. Oh, my undergraduate degree is also in economics.

        The UW’s Prof. Scott Rutherford, probably the ‘go-to’ guy in academia locally, publicly acknowledged the importance, value and practical impact of McFadden’s work in the transportation planning field -especially in ridership forecasting- at a seminar he gave at Portland State University’s Center for Transportation Studies in PSU’s School of Urban Studies and Planning on January 10, 2003. (You can find the archived streaming video if you care to make the effort.)

        Real data is *fundamental* to the use of discrete choice models. It is done in a step termed “calibrating”, whereby the coefficients (and exponents) of the variables in the (typically log-linear) equation of the predictive model are ‘fitted’ to real data, so to ensure the greatest possible accuracy of the model output — and enabling lots and lots of “what if” model runs. Before McFadden’s work showed the way, ridership forecasting was a very, very primitive art (not even a science, which it now is.)


        And I repeat, all choices (if they are to be accurately called “choices”) are DISCRETE.

        P.S. [Comment edited, ad hominem] — I didn’t say a four-car LINK train couldn’t hold 800 people; I know that’s their capacity. I was saying that 800 people couldn’t “fight” in a LINK train because they’d be jam-packed like sardines and couldn’t swing their fists. (I was responding tongue-in-cheek to the mis-spelling of whomever said 800 people could fight in a LINK train. I guess you didn’t pick up on the humor.)

      11. John, you’re trying to be rational with an irrational troll. Seriously, don’t waste your time. Next week, (Required) could adopt the exact opposite opinion. Contrarian – isn’t that the name for it? Also called: a waste of everybody’s time.

      12. It’s really funny that this guy calls the blog an echo-chamber when we’ve scooped some stories in the last week before any other news outlets did. :)

      13. Ben, you didn’t scoop any news stories, and your self-congratulations is an illustration of why I don’t read this blog nearly as much nor as closely as I used to.

        In this matter of R8A, you helped create a drama that fed into the politics surrounding the King County executive’s race – designed by Larry Phillips, I think, based on the time line of phone calls, his op-ed, your rant-fest here. Jarrett was working on creating ST while you were still in grade school. I think you guys got used, trashing a good man for darned little reason. Any problem w/the budget language could’ve been resolved differently, but that would have let a political opportunity go unused, and Larry Phillips is a consummate politician.

        My commitment to a post-session walk-through of this scenario remains. Some wordsmithing did need to happen and some money needed moved. It will be resolved on Monday, during the transportation budget debate on the House floor, with agreement between Simpson and Clibborn, as I understand it. Now, something else non-ST-related could blow up in the meantime, but I think everyone is happy with the outcome. But, NO, it didn’t require this type of drama to solve, but there you are.

        I don’t have a lot of time right now to respond to blog posts, especially at the level of detail that Ben demands. And yeah, this blog seems to have gotten particularly nasty in recent months, and every post I offer up seems to provide Ben another chance to trash me. Why should I encourage him?

        We’re working on multiple complex issues in Oly, from the I-937 rewrite (that bill seems to have died in an Approps committee yesterday, even after almost constant work for the last several weeks) to energy efficiency (the Rolfes/Kilmer bill that I helped rewrite is alive) to my EV bill, an ACLU bill that addresses “black boxes” in cars, and I’m not even mentioning the budget here – so you betcha – I do depend on staff for facts.

        The blog still has some damned good posts — the graphic of cul de sacs vs grids is great!! We worked hard in Kirkland to defeat the cul de sac stuff, require connectivity, and we had some success but some failures. I DO believe that these issues should/must be addressed at the state level, because I think it’s pretty clear that leaving it totally w/in local control means that nothing changes. I’m really sorry Sharon Nelson’s TOD bill couldn’t get passed this year. The firestorm that erupted about it sort of proved the case that we need to have the discussion.

        Keep up the conversation, and Andrew, if you will send me off-blog contact information, I’ll try to arrange some time after session for Oly legislators to meet with you guys in a group, with maps and budgets, to talk through your concerns and our perspective. /deb

      14. Rep Eddy,

        Thanks for taking the time to reply and I agree that sometimes things can get overblown. However, when you say “it didn’t require this type of drama to solve” do you mean that Rep. Clibborn’s amendment were always just political maneuverings that never meant what they said? That’s a little hard to believe considering the history here.

        (By the way… I was in college in 1996! So ha!)

      15. Rep. Eddy, thanks a great deal for your thoughts.

        We weren’t trying to create drama or feed into a Phillips or Constantine campaign. R8A funding wasn’t in the budget and still isn’t, you know. The language RE: the center lanes leasing was poor — and poor language can have serious consequences — and we’re glad it’s fixed. The House still removes ST from the mobility grants. So we’re trying to fix that. You make the point that this is all part of the legislative process. Granted, but without the focus given to you by your constituents we might not always see the same outcomes. Respectfully, you said you weren’t totally focused on R8A just a few days ago. This isn’t an attack. I don’t think many legislators were.

        I know people are busy down there, but if we got emails saying, “Oh, hey, don’t worry, we’re going to offer amendments giving R8A funding and we’re not going to make negotiation on the center lanes use that language.” then that’s one thing. But a lot of people sent out replies and they got responses that just didn’t contain much detail. Personally, emails to Clibborn were unreturned and Jarrett was very specific with me (though he did reply and rapidly, and I very much appreciate that. He seems like a nice person.) You say we could have done it better. But we’re not lobbyists and we’re not in Olympia. Sometimes the process seems like a black box to us.

        If “drama” means “we’ve been getting contacted a lot about this,” then I think you should know that this is a pretty important issue to a lot of people, especially Democrats. Obviously we have no reason to create consternation or drama amongst the caucus, but at a certain point we do have a boil down complex issues into something that people can chew on and contact their representatives about. Saying this could delay East Link is a way to boil down complex issues.

        I’ve been proud of our work recently. Though it has been loud at times, it’s gotten notable attention in the press as well as, apparently, in Olympia. We’re not trying to display arrogance, but I’m not certain if this issue would have appeared in the Times or the PI without our close monitoring. That’s what blogging’s about. And while at times we weren’t as constructive as we should have been, I do think we helped the process focus in on better language and the governor’s request for R8A funding.

        We’re not trying to do this at the cost of upsetting our legislators, though. Respectfully, your tone seems a bit uncharacteristic… Here’s what we did: we wrote some posts and asked our readers to email folks. I don’t really get at what stage we stirred the pot too much to become a problem. Naturally, I’d love for that to be conclusion to be different — I’d like any show of strength to the be the basis for forming allies and not resentment.

        As an aside, Ben gets too confrontational at times, and him and I disagreed on his Jarrett post. We’ve made a lot of progress since Clibborn’s “fingerprints” and intentionally so — that is not the tone we want to take. But Ben is one of the smartest people here and is one of those people who does due diligence on the issues — especially regarding engineering issues. I think most commenters show you great respect, though, and I do personally enjoy your comments. Things will calm down after the budget, but I hope that you appreciate that our efforts that created “drama” had our hearts in the right place.

      16. Democracy is supposed to be a bit dramatic. It’s not as if anybody posted anything close to libelous. There are legions of lobbyists, business interests, interest groups and power brokers paid to suck up to these state legislators. Spend a couple hours in the halls of the legislative building, and you can figure that our for yourselves. [Comment edited, ad hominem]. If you didn’t notice, no daily paper would ever go into this level of depth on a transit-related subject. The uncovering of these issues was the result of in-depth reporting. Which legislators aren’t used to.

      17. Rep Eddy,

        Kirkland is probably has the largest walkabile area of any of the Eastside cities, which is one of the reasons I like it. Another reason is the open waterfront, compared to most of the lake on all sides where it’s private beaches.

      18. I’ve got to agree with Eddy on this one. This blog has gotten increasingly bombastic and shrill as of late, and I find myself just skipping over the comments in my feed reader because it’s a bunch of one-note posting and any person who dares to say different is lambasted with ad hom attacks.

      19. Brant, that isn’t the type of atmosphere we strive for but yes things have gotten more shrill recently. I think we’ve been talking a lot of “us vs. them” issues, particularly R8A and urban vs. suburb, which has made things a lot less light-hearted and also allowed less of our “inner-transit planner” stuff to shine. Everyone here likes talking about what new Link routing would be awesome, but it’s a lot tougher to talk about something like state funding of two-way HOV or how to cut bus service without into getting some strong disagreements.

        Perhaps I shouldn’t defend it, though. We’ll be working hard to remove ad hominem attacks and encourage diversity of opinion.

  24. Actually, I take that last statement back — it’s time to go out and have a “pop” or two.

  25. I have to echo Representative Eddy to some extent. I lived in the 36th for many years and learned a little about my legislators and the process. WRT the Viaduct thing, a legislator I trust told me she had constituents who thought they needed a way to get from Ballard to wherever they go on the Viaduct.

    They may be wrong- but she represents them. Still, the legislators and Governor came up with a plan that uses tunnels and does not rebuild the Viaduct. And there have been a lot of blog comments since then that didn’t consider everything involved. After a while, that’s not so interesting to read.

    There s so much value in what John, Ben, and Andrew (forgive me if someone else is left off this list) do here that I hesitate to criticize anything.

    But- legislators are busy during the session. And it always looks like it’s going to hell. But one thing I learned years ago is that if they’re going to shaft you, everything will look just great until you read the actual legislation that was passed.

    And about 100 of the comments here might have been more interesting if they were appended to a post that John Niles had been invited to put up. Just a thought.

    1. Thanks- I do think I should clarify part of my comment- legislators won’t normally “shaft” you. But the legislation they pass is written by staffs, departments, and agencies. In one case with the City of Seattle quite a bit of lobbying was done, and everyone thought the problem was solved. But the Building Dept (yeah, you might have guessed) simply pulled the old switcheroo at 11.59 and the legislation passed kept what the department wanted and not what was agreed upon.

      Hopefully those days are over and not to be repeated in our new and improved society.

      1. I think perhaps a good example of elected officials “shafting” someone was the recent drama over the employee privacy act. Though far more common is to change the language at the last minute in conference so it looks like they are doing one thing when in reality they are doing another.

  26. “any person who dares to say different is lambasted with ad hom attacks”

    Yeah, I’ve noticed — even when those who dare to say different present/inject overwhelming argument, rational perspective & uncomfortable facts to those safely cloistered in this echo-chamber.


    To the moderator: invective, including particularly short-handed phrases like “drinking the Kool-aid” or “wet behind the ear”, *can* be of value to these discussions. They say something important. And unfortunately, sometimes they’re required to cut through everyone else singing in harmony. Counter-point gives some personality to the music.

    But I would be the first to acknowledge that invective alone -without adequate, socially-redeeming additional information (rebuttal, whatever)- is not worthy of protection.

    Thus I would lodge complaint with your excessive editing to many of my posts. I believe some information has been needlessly axed. Meanwhile, others have accused me of knowing nothing about LINK trains, economics, transportation, passes and possibly other subject matter relevant to this blog but I haven’t noticed those unfounded charges (ad hominem attacks) have been removed yet. Will you do so? Or, as I would prefer, will you simply lay off the edit button?

    Let voices who have something to say have their say. Don’t edit their words.

    1. Our comment policy is available here. If your point is that ad hominem works in context — no, we reject that. No “information” was removed from your posts. If you have further problems you should contact us via email (seattletransitblog at gmail) but this thread shouldn’t be derailed further.

  27. You run the risk of mistaking short-hand for ad hominem. In this messy human world, the exchange of views and information includes such expressions. Embrace and celebrate it. Deal with it.

    In any event, I think you’ll find my posts contained far more genuine INFORMATION (and challenges like those from a tough professor, to force deeper thought) than all the other posts combined. They’re full of conjecture, platitudes and self-congratulation.

    If my posts were nothing but pointed deprecation of others -or the libelous statements John Niles complained of- they would properly be removed. But that’s not what they were. If you don’t want to hear from me, a dissenting and well-informed voice, just come out and say so. Don’t hide behind your editor’s scalpel.

    Say, don’t you find it hard to be a neutral editor/moderator? (I quote: “How dastardly. If only there were a public vote on the matter.”) Yeah, that’s a pretty fair and balanced & fully informative post, GenY’er. Now do you understand why I call this an echo-chamber? Helloooooooo!!! Maybe a smiley will mitigate the sting, so I’ll include one here ;-)

    1. It’s not up for discussion. We have a comments policy and we attempt to enforce it equally.

      1. John is correct. I’ve seen comments by front page posters deleted or edited to remove things in violation of policy. Don’t feel singled out.

    2. (Required),

      This is not a public square. If you would like to have an unedited platform to say whatever you want you can get one for free at blogspot.

      That said, I think we’ve maintained every factual claim you’ve made on this comment thread. I even think you have some good points but honestly can’t understand what you’re so upset about.

      John Niles is pretty much our ideological antithesis, and we often find his style of argumentation aggravating. Nevertheless, he’s kept it 100% classy and I think you’ll find we haven’t touched his comments at all.

  28. it’s a lot tougher to talk about something like state funding of two-way HOV or how to cut bus service”

    So, am I to infer that cutting bus service IS on your agenda?

    That was denied earlier by whomever said -oh, it was you!- that a ‘firewall’ ensured ST rail couldn’t possibly cannibalize bus service and thus what happened in LA just couldn’t happen in Seattle. Not even if all the agencies were folded into one?

    You’re right, dreaming about ‘awesome’ LINK routes is easy. Dealing with real decisions is a lot tougher. Welcome to the big world. It’s not Sim City.

    1. Well if you’d been paying attention you’d know Metro and other transit agencies are facing a budget shortfall due to declining sales tax revenue. This is due to the overall economy and not Sound Transit eating their revenue.

      In fact in King County the sales tax rate supporting Metro has gone up since Sound Transit was created. Now to be fair Metro lost the MVET revenue when it was eliminated back in 2000 but that was hardly Sound Transit’s fault.

      For the record on a per passenger basis light rail is cheaper to operate and maintain. You need fewer drivers per passenger, the vehicles last longer and require less maintenance (suspension, brakes, engines, tires, transmissions).

      In the specific case of U-link and North Link where exactly are we supposed to get the passenger capacity between Northgate, the U-District, Capitol Hill, and Downtown. The buses serving those destinations are already at crush loads well outside peak hours even with frequent service. Unfortunately the roads serving those areas are also at capacity well outside peak hours so there is no place to put more buses. Even if you did add buses the travel times would continue to get worse and service would not be reliable.

      Adding exclusive bus right of way serving Northgate, the U-District, Capitol Hill, and Downtown would cost roughly the same as U-link and North Link are going to cost if not more. Widening I-5 between Downtown and Northgate would be much more expensive if it could even be done politically.

    2. Chris is correct, I was talking about Metro’s budget shortfall. Metro is an independent agency from ST. I never used the word firewall. You have the wrong commenter.

  29. John Jemsen, 2009-04-03 18:32:54: “It can’t happen here because Metro and Sound Transit are separate agencies. Sound Transit was created solely for regional transit and primarily rail transit. There is no threat that local bus service is being hurt by ST’s funding.” [Comment edited; mis-spelling]

    In short, a ‘firewall’. One word distilled from thirty-eight.

    P.S. you neglected to respond to financial dynamics were all transit agencies folded into one. Would that modify your ‘it can’t happen here’ view?

    ——-

    “For the record on a per passenger basis light rail is cheaper to operate and maintain”

    I believe some have disputed that, drawing upon data from the National Transit Database. Such an assertion may depend on the characteristics of a system and is highly dependent on the level of ridership, is it not? In any event, I don’t think it’s guaranteed outcome. Wasn’t that the point of conducting alternatives analyses when seeking federal funding? Could you provide a link to your proof?

    ——
    “In the specific case of U-link and North Link where exactly are we supposed to get the passenger capacity between Northgate, the U-District, Capitol Hill, and Downtown.”

    Where, indeed? That route, which offered I believe 3 times the daily ridership as the Rainier Valley route to almost the airport, was set aside in 2000 when ST ‘discovered’ they didn’t have enough money to complete the 17-mile LRT line they had sold to the voters in 1996. Indeed, getting to the U and to Northfate required a second hike in their tax authority.

    But haven’t we learned from all this just how extraordinarily expensive it is to pump ever more people daily into downtown? Aren’t there alternative, more accessible, less costly-to-get-to places for many if not most or all of those new people can work? So why insist on pumping them from further and further out into a slender, land-starved isthmus? Who benefits from that? (Think about it and if you have an economics background, you should come up with the answer.)

    Does pumping ever more people at such high cost into downtown somehow make them more productive in their daily work? If so, then why don’t we do this for everyone?

    1. A firewall is some sort of barrier, a line of separation, perhaps theoretical in concept. Metro and Sound Transit are separate agencies. There isn’t a firewall between them because they do not share a wall. And no, I will not address a hypothetical that has no chance of happening any time soon. Luckily I don’t have to present an alternative vision of reality to point out that it can’t happen here.

    1. (Required)

      It would help you credibility if you actually put a name in there.

      However, what I find more useful in the cost/benefit analysis is when the C/B analysis is done when all modes are compared.

      Too much time is eaten up by transit supporter defending their figures, when other modes (road based, SOV’s in particular), are never analyzed in as much detail.

      Critique and questioning of figures and conclusions is good. However, to be useful, in must be in context.

      What are your solutions, and how do they compare?

      Jim Cusick

  30. I agree with you, Jim. On the benefit of mode v. mode C/B analyses, that is.

    You might find those other modes you list actually perform quite well against the favorite mode of the bloggers here. One major reason is that those road-based modes utilize the already-built (but that’s not to say there are no problems with it) street, road and highway network. A network that is quite extensive and ubiquitous, which is *vastly* different from what any network rail will/can ever achieve given the uncomfortable fact that money is finite (just like there’s a limit to the depth of taxpayers pockets, too.)

    I don’t think putting a “name” to one’s comments adds or detracts from the value of what someone says. The measure of what someone says is how provable, insightful, informed, knowledgeable and responsive/responsible are his or her statements and arguments.

    As for my solutions, for the most part they aren’t transportation solutions at all, they’re land use solutions because I consider congestion as merely a symptom of something out of balance. The underlying problem of congestion (a symptom) is not “addressed” by widening roads beyond sensible bounds. But neither is the underlying problem addressed by adding capacity via an alternative mode that promises to consume an extraordinary amount of (scarce) resources while only serving a small sliver of a region’s daily transportation demand.

    Conservation measures, rooted in land use practices, that address the substantial annual growth in travel demand (accentuated by growing distances between the locus of affordable housing and of jobs) would likely prove more effective in addressing the symptom that has everyone thinking that it’s a no-brainer to add expensive transportation capacity -and to force clusters of abnormal levels of density around its handful of exits & entrances. And since “my solution” involves land development, it can be accomplished mostly on the backs of *private* investment. That would call for locating employment opportunities in closer proximity to the present population, not funneling the present population over, under or across any of several water or geographic/topographic barriers into one distant, expensive and difficult-to-get-to point.

    Instead, you’re witnessing the selling of a many, many billion dollar project of twenty or more years in duration designed merely to pump ever more tens of thousands of people daily into a very confined, one square-mile patch of land downtown. One that handsomely subsidizes downtown land owners and developers (and retailers) inducing them to build higher & denser new office buildings from which they can obtain more floorspace and collect higher rent income*, thanks to massive amounts of public money spent chasing the wrong objective, spent addressing a highly visible symptom (as visible as the weather), but not the disease.

    You asked and you received.

    * the higher value of their properties will be taxes (and this is about the ONLY tax cost these downtown property owners incur as a result of the benefit bestowed upon them and their property holdings by the region’s taxpayers. But that tax is really quite modest, ~1% annually on the increased property value. Indeed, the cost they pay could be considered to be (and in effect is) a mere 1% cost of capital for the increased value of their downtown asset that flows to their balance sheets. That’s a damned attractive cost of funds, isn’t it? But is this an equitable or appropriate outcome of intelligent public policy? You can guess my answer to that…

  31. That would call for locating employment opportunities in closer proximity to the present population, not funneling the present population over, under or across any of several water or geographic/topographic barriers into one distant, expensive and difficult-to-get-to point.

    That’s a solution? So what happens when someone loses or changes jobs? Do they have to move to another cluster? Or do you want it so that there are so many jobs centrally located that one can easily move jobs and stay in the same house? And since you don’t want public support of sprawling, expensive transportation infrastructure, perhaps this jobs center that allows for plenty of employment mobility (i.e. switching jobs) should be built vertically instead of flat to maximize ground space?

    So, a jobs cluster, close to residential, that is vertical. We should call that cluster “downtown.” (See Bellevue [Suburbia], or Seattle [Belltown, Capitol Hill, International District].)

    I’m engaging in a straw man, I know. But you cannot have jobs mobility while at the same time having very limited employment sectors close to residential. We all agree that employees and employers should be close to each other, but it is hard to exercise behavior economics on employees when the employers are the one who get zoned. What exactly do employees lose by driving 30 miles to work if they find their model home? So they cause regional congestion — we can see in the real world that congestion itself is not enough to solve congestion.

    You quite elegantly say you can decouple transportation and land use. I assert that you cannot decouple those in the real world and that your plan is in fact no workable plan at all. But at least you’re not saying we should widen I-405.

    1. I don’t want to see I-405 widened either. I live maybe 1/2 a mile away with a ridge separating us but it’s already loud and the negative effects extend well beyond noise and air pollution. However, no alternative has been presented that will address the needs over the next 10-20 years. I-5 is pretty much at capacity (downtown is a choke point with really very few alternates for improvement. The north south backbone for Link addresses this. There is no mass transit project that mirrors this for the eastside even on the drawing boards. Cross lake capacity is important too but the scope of the East Link project has pretty much cast in concrete the need to widen I-405.

      1. Bernie, I’m confused.

        You say “no alternative has been presented that will address the needs over the next 10-20 years.” for I-405.

        The I-405 Corridor Program explored just that. Well, in 2001, it was a 30 year plan, but costs being what they were, and funding an issue, now the study effectively only goes out 20 years because no construction had started until a few years ago. (2030 being the horizon year).

        In fact, two of the alternatives had payback beyond that 30 year span that planners use.

        Jim

      2. Sorry, what I was saying is no HCT alternative currently on the table helps with I-405. The high capitalization rail proposal for East Link does nothing to alleviate the demand on I-405. By not addressing this it leaves only the build more road alternative.

  32. Full of questions, eh? I’m not surprised – it’s a differnet paradigm I advanced. But I’m not, as you claim, “de-coupling transportation and land use”. I’m only emphasizing one over the other. And where did I say those would be “very limited employment sectors”? You read too much into what I said.

    As regard your “what if” questions, job losses (and gains) occur all the time. It’s not a reasonable policy objective to ensure, by physically concentrating say 90% of the jobs at one central geographic locale, so to minimize any future (private) job transition costs. That’s not why cities emerged as dense collections of economic activity. But the concentration of jobs *does* present an incentive/motivation for those ‘zoned’ to seek being zoned in such a way to exclude or disadvantage their competitors, which can lead to an uneconomic over-concentration of jobs. (Whoever said zoning was economically efficient?)

    And nothing but humility prevents those who are ‘zoned’ from seeking additional emoluments (i.e rent-seeking, such as influencing public spending that alters the accessibility & thus value of their land) via making well-crafted, emotional appeals to those standing in their way. This inevitably includes pitches to the taxpayers (the ‘purse strings’.)

    You’ve heard some of those emotional appeals: “World class” “open the waterfront” “keep the Mariners/Seahawks/Sonics”. Those are only some of the more recent ones attempted.

    BTW: Belltown, Capitol Hill and the International District are only a start. Think larger — after all, the *region* is. It can’t await, nor afford, a ubiquitous network of your favored light rail.

    [Comment edited; too hypothetical and/or uncomfortable]

    [Editor’s note: The above editing marks are the commenter’s attempt to ape our editor’s comments. This will shortly be added to the list of no-nos in our comment policy.]

    1. I actually agree that downtown has too high a concentration of higher wage jobs, but it’s nothing like 90%. According to the recent City of Seattle Regional Growth Center Presentation to PSRC, downtown has 147,866 jobs vs 40,667 on First Hill and Capitol Hill and 21,753 in SLU (note: seems to include Fred Hutch/SCCA on Eastlake). The Seattle Economy city-data page may not be entirely accurate but has Seattle-Bellevue-Everett MSA nonagricultural labor force of 1,335,500, which would put downtown’s percentage between 10-15%.

      It would be interesting to know how many people are taking transit downtown and then transferring or walking to/from nearby job centers on First Hill or SLU. I know I do this sometimes to get from the U-District to UW SLU.

    2. I don’t understand what you are advancing. Your points are segregated by basins of sharp filler.

      There is no regional zoning in place that constrains job centers — these decisions are made at the local level in a chaotic way. In fact, job centers are spread entirely across the region. You have non-dense jobs in Woodinville, sprawling job complexes in Redmond, and vertical development in Bellevue. All of these are at some point or another within a mile or two of fully developed residential communities. Yet, even with a web of commutes we still find ourselves stuck dealing with congestion and reliant on automobiles to run errands.

      You are not advancing or prescribing a policy position to allow the land use patterns you wax about remove the need for transportation infrastructure. This is contrast with a person who is advocating for development concentrated along transit corridors, an actual prescription to solve the problems of congestion, emissions, and sprawl. Why yes, what you are saying is too hypothetical!

      You merely’re, as far as I can tell, advancing that it’s a good idea to have people live near where they work. You so do without recognizing that there are incentives for individuals not to do so. Wouldn’t the most rudimentary analysis of the behavioral economics in our society consider the fact that sometimes a high-paying job may not exist in the neighborhood closest to your house no matter the municipality’s zoning policy?

  33. Enable people opportunities to work closer to where they live, not vice-versa. It’s a subtle difference, but a meaningful one. I think it helps to maximize F-R-E-E-D-O-M, as opposed to S-E-R-F-D-O-M (i.e. living like ants).

    High-paying jobs are not always place-bound, are they? Maybe for stevedores who must work shipside, but for the white-collar community? Back in the ’60’s yes, but today and tomorrow?

    P.S. What exactly are those “incentives” for individuals “to not live near where they work”? Are these truly ‘incentives’ or are they simply mere market conditions? Are they man-made (artificial and thus changeable) or are they stubbornly natural (and thus inescapable)?

    P.P.S. You must be a poet (“basins of sharp filler”.) But if you had taken some courses in urban economics, you’d understand that what you see in Woodinville, Redmond, Bellevue, SLU, Belltown, ID and Seattle are products of the same forces. Those forces must be understood and grappled with, not ignored and ‘railroaded’ over in pursuit of some elusive utopia.

    Blogs aren’t an adequate substitute for learning about the real world. Neither is the internet – at least not yet. You may wish to start your journey Googling “featureless plain” (hint: Seattle most assuredly is not one, nor is NYC, Boston, SF, etc.). I’ve never done that, but it might lead you to some gold mines. One can always hope.

    1. High-paying jobs are not always place-bound, are they? Maybe for stevedores who must work shipside, but for the white-collar community? Back in the ’60’s yes, but today and tomorrow?

      Exactly. So how can you ensure that someone will work close to where they live when a job somewhere else could pay more or be a more enjoyable pursuit. Or heck, even exist. All of these are incentives to not stay within the same square mile of employment. There are “mere market conditions,” but you offer no prescription to change them and substantially don’t seem admit that “market conditions” are another phrase for “real world.” We had numbers earlier in this thread showing just 10-15% of regional jobs were in the core. Even with that figure, we still have sprawl and congestion.

      I understand that the examples of development I named are what you’re vaguely talking about. When residential clusters form, invariably jobs do too. You are not talking about these natural formations, however — since the status quo does require massive investment in transportation infrastructure — you are talking about a solution, a change. And again, how? How do you do this great plan of simply eliminating the commutes?

  34. (Required),

    I am in awe of your intellect.

    At first, I might have mistaken those posting here as informed individuals, but by your recent postings I can now see we all fail at the true understanding of society and its interconnectivity.

    However, this quote is quite revealing:

    “You might find those other modes you list actually perform quite well against the favorite mode of the bloggers here. One major reason is that those road-based modes utilize the already-built (but that’s not to say there are no problems with it) street, road and highway network. A network that is quite extensive and ubiquitous, which is *vastly* different from what any network rail will/can ever achieve given the uncomfortable fact that money is finite (just like there’s a limit to the depth of taxpayers pockets, too.)”

    What it reveals is that you have never analyzed the process, nor actually explored the conclusions of that analysis. If you had, you would have come to the conclusion that planners have always come to, and that is urban/suburban environments are best served by a transportation system that does not rely solely on the road system. What’s at issue is when do you start to build a true high-capacity system?

    “Money is finite” is an admonishment that only seems to be for any non road transportation system. Apparently the money that has been spent, and will need to be spent to deal with transportation in this (or any other urban) region on the road system is infinite.

    No one, including those rail supporters on this blog, the media, and most of the legislature, never seem to question that.

    The only other conclusion I can reach from your comments is that you are arguing for either NO public financed transportation system, or a totalitarian state where you will be required to live next to your place of employment.

    If you are arguing for roads, you’d better supply more data, and be prepared to defend it.

    Jim Cusick

  35. You’re both taking my views to an extreme. I’m not eliminating commutes, I’d aim at measures that *moderate* them. Jobs (i.e. workplaces) are not permanently fixed on the terrain. Just like people, they too can be ‘moved’ (rearranged over the terrain). But unlike mass transit’s financing mechanism, *private* dollars move (develop) them. Let that occur.

    And as regards your (mistaken) perspective that I apparently advocate either NO public financed transportation system or some totalitarian state, I would instead reply that that the patterns by which workplaces *form* (cluster, whatever) across any given terrain should, ideally, reflect the effect of *economic* factors to the maximum extent possible. Proximity to workers is one such factor. But heavily-subsidizing access to those workplaces from ever further locations is only masking a symptom, not addressing the disease.

    Those workplace patterns should not be manipulated or forced to fit some perceived ‘best’ form, drawn out of obscure city planning textbooks written by theorists espousing patterns that when carefully analyzed may require substantial and continuing subsidy from the many (who obtain no benefit) to the few (who obtain out-sized benefits.) Why this imbalance – and implicit preference for some over others? I’m reminded of the “whites only” signs on water fountains during the civil rights era.

    I fear that’s a snapshot of what’s been happening in Seattle over the past 40 years. Jim Ellis’ speech to the Rotary Club in 1965 closed with the exhortation, “we can build here one of the great cities of man.” (You can find that speech on microfilm at the library: Seattle PI, Nov 21, 1965, “Your Future and Rapid Transit”) We live in a different world today. We can engage in discussions, exchange documents and conduct transactions instantaneously across the entire region. We don’t have to do it over lunch at the Rainier Club.

    Ellis embraced city planning, but city planning (particularly in the U.S. as I’m sure you would largely agree) doesn’t have a very proud legacy.

    Kings and potentates were the first city planners (who else had that power?) I believe it was Bismark who designed Berlin with broad boulevards for displaying his armies. I don’t know who designed Pyongyang, but it too makes for nice military parades. Washington D.C. also was planned for the same sort of grandiosity.

    In the U.S., it wasn’t that long ago that trained city planners adopted large urban ‘renewal’ programs that removed vast swaths of inner-city housing in cities like Newark, Chicago, Los Angeles etc, replacing it with what became vertical prisons, uninhabitable storehouses of forgotten peoples. Many, but not all, of those mistakes have now been corrected, but at what cost over the decades while it festered?

    We as a human society are prone to make ill-considered, uneconomic -and sometimes unfair- choices. This is always a temptation, but the temptation is heightened when someone else can be maneuvered into paying for them. Especially when LOTS of ‘someone else’s’ can be maneuvered into that position. Dreams are alluring – but they can have really ugly underbellies.

    1. (Required),

      I’m not sure but maybe I agree with you. I’d definitely like more detail about what “workplace patterns” you dislike, but I’m not a fan of the sort of zoning and planning that created the dead hearts called business districts in most major US cities. Neither do I much like residential-only suburbs. However, I think mass transit can effectively serve more than only a downtown. In Seattle we have some decent attempts going on with the Urban Centers. Some like Uptown/Queen Anne, First/Hill Capitol Hill and the University District are existing neighborhoods with fairly good proximity between jobs, housing, and services. Others like Northgate and South Lake Union are being built almost from ground zero and in my mind at least will take 10 or more years to really succeed or fail as compact neighborhoods (as opposed to disconnected job and/or housing centers). All will be served by rail transit if you include light rail, streetcars, and the monorail. :)

      For the record, Seattle’s always been full of “great city” boosters. Currently, one is running for mayor and it’s not all bad.

    2. Those workplace patterns should not be manipulated or forced to fit some perceived ‘best’ form, drawn out of obscure city planning textbooks written by theorists espousing patterns that when carefully analyzed may require substantial and continuing subsidy from the many (who obtain no benefit) to the few (who obtain out-sized benefits.) Why this imbalance – and implicit preference for some over others?

      Certainly not. However, transportation drives land use. When land use drives transportation you have terrible things like cul-de-sacs or the proposed I-605. You have noted many times that it is preferable to look at the world we see it rather than model based on some ideals.

      But there is no planning committee that forces jobs into Downtown Seattle. Companies move there on their own volition. They could just as easily have an office in the U District or Bellevue or even Woodinville.

      In the U.S., it wasn’t that long ago that trained city planners adopted large urban ‘renewal’ programs that removed vast swaths of inner-city housing in cities like Newark, Chicago, Los Angeles etc, replacing it with what became vertical prisons, uninhabitable storehouses of forgotten peoples. Many, but not all, of those mistakes have now been corrected, but at what cost over the decades while it festered?

      I don’t know if reaching back to the 1950’s has much to do with today’s world. Issues like these were explored in The Death and Life of Great American Cities written in the early 60’s. Perhaps more modern context, like the increasing population, standard of living, and my generation’s idealization of the Great American City is more relevant. I think city centers are in revival, not outmoded. And you’re right, city planners have had a bad history (again, Jacobs) but it is the relatively unplanned parts of a city that give it charm.

      But this talk of cities has nothing to do with suburbia and cannot merely be transmuted to it. Suburbia has at times no planning (cul-de-sacs) and extreme planning (separation of commercial and residential). There have been no projects in suburbia, but there have been suburbs that have decayed and giant malls that have been abandoned. (There are no examples to think of in this region.)

      We as a human society are prone to make ill-considered, uneconomic -and sometimes unfair- choices. This is always a temptation, but the temptation is heightened when someone else can be maneuvered into paying for them. Especially when LOTS of ’someone else’s’ can be maneuvered into that position. Dreams are alluring – but they can have really ugly underbellies.

      I am certainly glad you are no longer attempting to make me realize how stupid I am, but you still aren’t laying out prescriptive policies to accomplish what you seek. Zoning is a government responsibility and not a free-market one. How are you going to zone to have your vision enacted? And to a large extent, isn’t your vision of workplace within miles of suburbia residential — both long away from the city center — the vision of reality we live in today that has lead to every highway being congested?

      This “web” of commutes causes an intractable problem. One that can’t be fixed by highways nor transit in any sort of cost-effective matter. Rail will not solve congestion, but it can present a reliable alternative.

      1. Rail will not solve congestion, but it can present a reliable alternative.

        Sure. Build a new rail line from point A to B and it’s not congested. Try to take the train from Seattle to Portland and guess what? 65% on time rating because of congestion (yes, because it’s piggy backing on freight which does far more for the economy and the environment than passenger rail). Any time of day you can drive there faster. We need more tracks… right, we do! Build a new point to point road and hit areas you think should be developed 20 years from now… no congestion! The point? If you avoid the problem, which is real world demand today rail comes out smelling like a rose. Apples to apples what does it does it do to satisfy present day demand. U-Link I think does very well. Central Link OK with an eye to the future. Long range plans, 10-20 years out I’m not so sure.

      2. I was talking about mass transit, or light rail, not passenger rail. :)

        Bernie, I’ve heard you argue multiple times that light rail should benefit current day commuters. Why are you now saying there should be 10-20 year savings?

        I don’t think roads do that, either. Many roads are built as basically arterials and then upgraded to highways and then widened once and then again because there’s massive sprawl. We shouldn’t point the developer as that arterial as a genius with the gift of long-term plans. With mass transit, you don’t typically upgrade the first line but build new ones, which you can do at a smaller footprint than building a new highway.

        So here’s my point: We’re building the very first lines. They have to address the problems of today or even of the past. In the future, light rail could play a much bigger role in defining land use than we’ll see with the first lines.

      3. I’m not sure about 10-20 year savings? What I was saying is that I think University Link for sure serves demand that is there today. The train will beat a car or a bus handily any time of day, do it for less cost (to the individual) and it helps limit the number of vehicles in an area that just can support any more (needs a reduction). Central link I believe strikes a pretty good balance of meeting current demand and anticipating future growth (redevelopment). The proposed City of Bellevue route (waiting to see ST’s vision) doesn’t measure up. Mercer Island, OK… going there anyway (assuming I-90 is the only game in town). Downtown Bellevue, yes but; I don’t think a poor decision on where the “transit center” was placed needs to drive where East Link needs to go especially when the dollar tradeoff is bypassing Eastgate/Issaquah which would take more pressure off the highways. Overlake definitely (and concurrently with Belleuve, not a year later maybe). Overlake Village maybe not immediately. Redmond absolutely, not maybe sometime after we have another vote. Redmond spur up to SR 522 missing in action flies in the face of sub area equity and basically says just pave as much as possible from 520 north.

        So my point is East Link is all we (eastside) get for at least 20 years yet the money is not only being concentrated in a small area but overbuilding for demand that’s not even there. Will it be in 20 years, maybe but those people should pay for the next build out. It shouldn’t be on the backs or the majority of the eastside which is paying today (and tomorrow and the next day…) but getting bypassed 12 years from now when the system might final start moving people.

      4. Other than Overlake the largest concentration of employment on the Eastside is Downtown Bellevue. I don’t see how East Link can be justified at all without serving Bellevue’s Core. Fully 1/3 of the complete Seattle to Downtown Redmond ridership is going from/to Downtown Bellevue.

        Serving Downtown Bellevue means East Link needs to go through it not skirt the edge along 405 or the BNSF corridor. Even shifting the downtown station out to 112th shows a huge drop in ridership in downtown Bellevue. A circulator bus isn’t enough to compensate for avoiding the main cluster of downtown office space. That office space is mostly near the existing transit center as is the City Hall and convention center.

        I think Overlake Village is just as important as the Hospital station. It serves the Southern part of the Microsoft Campus, the retail core of Overlake as well as a fair portion of the non-Microsoft office space in the area. Especially once the new bridge across 520 is built.

        I understand your desire to see Link in downtown Redmond as soon as possible but I don’t think it should be done at the expense of the rest of the system. Using the absolutely cheapest alignment between downtown Seattle and Overlake Transit Center with a minimal number of stations in between turns East Link into the Microsoft express train and doesn’t do much to serve anyone who doesn’t work or live near Overlake or Downtown Redmond. Such a line probably couldn’t qualify for any FTA grant money as the cost effectiveness would be low.

        With the loss of Federal funding you’d be lucky if enough was saved to reach Downtown Redmond. There certainly wouldn’t be enough to run a branch to Factoria/Eastgate/Issaquah.

        Do I wish the phase 1 plans had funding for reaching downtown Redmond as well as extending out I-90 to Issaquah and a “round the lake” line going from Burien, Tukwilla, Renton, Newcastle, Bellevue, Kirkland, Woodinville, Bothell, Lynnwood, to Everett. Sure I do. But we aren’t there.

      5. I don’t think the Transit Center stop serves most of Bellevue without a shuttle connection anyway. Hence the three stops planned for Bellevue. One stop between the two proposed underground stations would do a better job than just the transit center. Neither does much for the Hospital. The downtown Seattle tunnel makes sense. It routes in a relatively straight forward way through downtown. Still, if you look at the size of downtown Seattle and the distance from the fringes to a Link station I think it would be farther than I-405 to the western edge of Bellevue’s downtown core. Besides the cost of the Bellevue tunnel the four right angle bends turn the line into a subterranean streetcar. It’s just too much emphasis on too little of the tax base (disclaimer, it’s yet to be seen how much and how Bellevue’s wish list will be paid for). If it were eliminating a major portion of the demand on I-405 or SR520 then I’d be more enthused about it but it’s not doing squat for either.

        The Overlake Village stop serves something like 300 units of low income housing and is walking distance to a handful of stores. Honestly I don’t see anybody taking Link to go shopping at Sears, Fred Meyer or Safeway. The employee base is small and unlikely to be served by link (store clerks don’t live in Bellevue high rise condos). P&R usage at Overlake Village has been dismal (<40%). Some Microsoft employees will use it but a station on the 405 alignment would actually be closer to the campus and to the old Group Health complex which when developed will eclipse Overlake Village and the small amount of retail near it. The 405 behind Safeway location eliminates more of the zig-zag and the at grade tracks on NE24th and 156th Ave NE (which really sucks). Even with two stations serving Microsoft most people will still be using Shuttle Connect to get around Campus.

        Cost cutting now to get the line as far as Marymoor would be huge. First that is hands down the best spot for the eastside maintenance facility. Access to the park would be a huge benefit to everyone in the county. It might actually eliminate the need for more lanes on SR520 between Microsoft and SR202. A Park & Ride there would have tremendous ridership and the parking structure would serve double duty for events at Marymoor such as Circ de Sol, Concerts, etc. It could even be built with ground floor retail concessions (food court, sports shop, etc) to help with costs.

        Once the line gets this far an extension to SR522 is so obvious I think it would do a lot to convince people to invest in another round of financing. In contrast, stopping at Belleuve or Overlake will leave a bitter feeling for rail in the mind of most eastside taxpayers.

      6. The University St stop in Seattle doesn’t serve most of the city either. That’s not a totally valuable metric. The Transit Center is pretty centrally located in downtown Bellevue. If a block or two of difference affects ridership toward the positive, let us know why. There simply isn’t the money to get to Redmond past the Overlake Transit Center. We shouldn’t short-change the plan sold to voters to get to Marymoor park.

        I am still confused as to what is near SR-522? Is this some BNSF thing again?

      7. And building a light rail stop behind a grocery store is a pretty bad idea. I’m very familiar with that area and there’s a lot more development potential at Overlake Village compared to behind the Safeway. That whole area isn’t very pedestrian friendly, but that can/should change over the next few decades. Redmond plans to upzone that area. In addition, an Overlake Village P&R could serve the huge and sprawling residential population east of 156th.

      8. 522 brings in all the traffic from Monroe/Snohomish(well that and Hwy 9 and near that interchange would be a great Park & Ride location). Hwy 9 is slowly morphing into yet another freeway. SR522 crosses under I-405 at Bothell and meets the Bothell Everett Hwy. Another one of the major routes to/from Mill Creek and population along the King Snohomish County line.

        NE31st and 156th Ave NE where the new overpass is going in is where I think the station should be. Currently it’s an old single story business park. The major objection from City of Redmond seems to be that it would interfere with the planned slip ramp from I405 to 152nd Ave NE. NOT building that slip ramp is a feature! Avoiding the at grade alignment on NE24th and 152nd Ave NE, closer to Microsoft South campus, closer to multi unit residential on 156th and 148th. Across the street from the Group Health complex, straighter alignment. The alternate is on the side of a grocery store and farther from the areas of highest demand.

        There is a P&R at Overlake Village and it has one of the lowest rates of usage of any on the eastside. It’s in a terrible location. Any Group Health redevelopment would have the opportunity to correct that mistake.

      9. 522 brings in all the traffic from Monroe/Snohomish(well that and Hwy 9 and near that interchange would be a great Park & Ride location). Hwy 9 is slowly morphing into yet another freeway. SR522 crosses under I-405 at Bothell and meets the Bothell Everett Hwy. Another one of the major routes to/from Mill Creek and population along the King Snohomish County line.

        I’m familiar with that area since I used to work in Bothell. SR-522 serves exurbs. I wouldn’t think of it as not appropriate for an expensive investment in transit. How are SR-522 and Marymoor linked? They’re not really near each other. I don’t get why you care about the BNSF corridor if light rail is running along it..? SR-522 doesn’t present the traffic challenges of something like I-405 — why is it a big win?

        There is a P&R at Overlake Village and it has one of the lowest rates of usage of any on the eastside. It’s in a terrible location.

        It’s because the P&R isn’t a transit station linked to Downtown Bellevue, Downtown Seattle, Federal Way, Seatac Airport, Northgate, and all the rest. Light rail would obviously change that. There are thousands of homes on the other side of 156th Ave NE who could utilize those spots.

        The side of a grocery story isn’t really the same as the dank, zero-development back. Group health can be redeveloped. The back of a Safeway, where loading docks are — I don’t know if that’s the same story. Why is the demand behind the former Radio Shack great?

        (I think you’re confusing 405 and 520 in your posts, btw).

      10. SR-522 serves exurbs. I wouldn’t think of it as not appropriate for an expensive investment in transit. How are SR-522 and Marymoor linked?… SR-522 doesn’t present the traffic challenges of something like I-405 — why is it a big win?

        All the traffic dumping onto I-405 at the SR-522 interchange is the issue. If they all worked in Maltby then no worries but because of the backup on I-405 there is a great deal of “cut through” traffic going from Woodinville to Redmond down SR-202. Even 203 Wood/Duval and in on Avondale. Ignoring the 522 corridor is a vote to turn 202 and into a more major arterial. And wasn’t it Kemper Freeman that wanted 203 to be our next new freeway? Marymoor and 522 are linked by a flat mostly undeveloped valley making it cheap and political easy to build rail. Rail doesn’t have to be as expensive and politically charged as East Link tries to make it.

        The side of a grocery story isn’t really the same as the dank, zero-development back.

        It can’t actually go behind the Safeway because of the 148th Ave NE cloverleaf. The spot I suggested, the office park is actual part of the very same office park where the proposed Overlake Village Station would go. It’s just that putting it north by a few blocks puts it in a better location for an expanded park & ride on the old Group Health site (more land & much better access since you can enter from 156th Ave NE, an actual arterial), serves the existing and future commuter demand better and is closer to multifamily residential. It’s a little farther from Sears but you don’t have to cross at grade tracks to get there. Nobody is going to take Link to go grocery shopping; chances are there’s a grocery store closer to their house than a Link station. Really, if the intent was to serve retail (which would be silly anyway) the station would have been at Bell-Red and 148th.

        The only reasons I see for the current proposed location are; 1) City of Redmond has designs on a slip ramp to 152nd which I think is a terrible idea (especially when coupled with at grade tracks) 2) There’s some need to prove that TOD in the form of what will be 25 year old low income apartments was a great idea (it wasn’t).

      11. Marymoor and 522 are eight miles apart. That’s still a pretty big investment even with cheap land. In between, there isn’t much. I think you’d get more bang for your buck by doubling back to Kirkland.

        I’m not really understanding your preferred positioning of the Overlake Village station. Can you diagram it somewhere? And what’s this slip ramp you talk of? :)

      12. A spur off to Kirkland P&R doesn’t get you much. Most people using this lot are headed across 520 and Link is a looser for downtown Seattle and UW. Beyond the P&R where can you go? Getting to downtown Kirkland would be a huge political fight and uber expensive. And who’s going to ride? Commuters from Kirkland to Bellevue is about it and Link would have a hard time beating a bus down Bellevue Way. Kirkland to Renton would have some appeal but the trains don’t go there no more.

        I stopped on the way home and took some pictures (cell phone). If they turn out I’ll try to figure out how to upload to the Flickr pool. The slip ramp is evil. I don’t know if City of Redmond just doesn’t know how to make information public, they just don’t care or they go out of their way to hide it. What the slip ramp will do is branch off from the existing eastbound 148th Ave NE ramp, go under 148th and then exit onto 152nd. JUST what we need, more cars in what would finally with the 36th/152nd overpass be a decent bike/ped route through Overlake (well part way through anyway). I’ll try to dig up the references.

      13. The pictures I took were pretty poor (low light and cell phone). Google maps and zoom in on the triangle of land which is boarded by 152nd Ave NE to the east (Group Health property extends about 1/2 way up this leg) and a frontage road parallel to SR-520 to the northwest. The northern tip is where 152nd turns to the northeast and will intersect the 31st/36th Street overpass. That overpass is OK but I think another pedestrian overpass to 31st on the north side of SR520 or addition of a sidewalk to northbound NE 148th is still needed. A more elaborate pedestrian overpass combined with a station here would provide a Flyers station connection between Link and buses on SR-520. One of the reasons bus connections to Overlake Village have been so bad is it’s so time consuming to get to.

        NE 24th St & 152nd Ave NE, Redmond, WA 98052

        This is a Redmond city document which has one of the better overviews of where the planning commission is coming from :

        http://redmond.gov/insidecityhall/citycouncil/pdfs/StudySession/ss021009.pdf

        One thing I don’t get is the elevated option crossing 148th is deemed to be cheaper but no elevated option is presented as an alternate to D5. An elevated option could skirt the 148th Ave NE interchange. Boarding at an elevated platform would be more expensive but could be part of a parking structure and retail/office space. It would put the platform at the same level as a pedestrian crossing to Microsoft and connected to development on the Group Health property via sky bridge (obviously going to be multistory towers ala Microsoft/Nintendo). Crossing 152nd at grade isn’t going to be too attractive anyway given the considerable amount of extra traffic this road is expected to carry and would be a disaster if they lay down double track rail. I think an elevated pedestrian crossing was already in the Draft EIS.

      14. There have been no projects in suburbia, but there have been suburbs that have decayed and giant malls that have been abandoned. (There are no examples to think of in this region.)

        Totem Lake while not technically abandoned is largely empty and slated for redevelopment. Aurora Village went through a similar near-death. South Sound Center in Olympia is still struggling even after a major redevelopment. I believe there are other examples of struggling malls in the area.

        There are also a number of abandoned or underutilized former big-box stores locally. The most notable example being the Bellevue K-Mart.

  36. But there is no planning committee that forces jobs into Downtown Seattle”

    No, just the GMA, notably passed the same year as the HCT act. If you were to lay these and other events out on a timeline, you’d have to conclude there was an ‘invisible hand’ on the control panel, working to effectuate a certain fixed goal. I’m saying that goal may not be economic. But it’s being forced, one shim at a time under the mechanism.

    That said, I am not a defender of cul de sacs and I applaud recognition of their effect. But are they all that different from rail transit lines, in that they both require a concentration -perhaps an excessive concentration- of traffic when alternative pathways (literally and figuratively) can be employed to the same end. (Sorry, but I’ll just have to leave this cryptic. I don’t have time to expand on the comment.)

    Yes, rail can provide a reliable alternative. But realistically, what % of travel needs can rail serve, given its fixed ROW, limited routes, substantial cost, and relatively infrequent access. If it were a telephone network, we’d be limited to dial tones (access) at most only every 15 minutes, for 40 seconds maximum duration at a time, at only a handful of locations many of which require more than a 5 minute trip (each way) to reach. Rail has serious limitations. Ubiquity is NOT its strength.

    1. No, just the GMA, notably passed the same year as the HCT act.

      The GMA defines a pretty wide swath of this region as “urban” and doesn’t drive to jobs to downtown Seattle any more than it does to Overlake or (the urban areas) of Bothell. GMA does (at some point in time) require infill but doesn’t, as far as I know, incentivize as to where that infill goes.

      But realistically, what % of travel needs can rail serve, given its fixed ROW, limited routes, substantial cost, and relatively infrequent access.

      Certainly not many trips can be served with a new and undeveloped rail transit system when jobs are randomly and arbitrarily placed. Highways can connect these disparate developments, but not very efficiently at all. On the other hand, in NYC rail is faster than the roads. The question isn’t about the mode but the relative investment and given that our first rail line is opening this summer of course it can’t serve the same destinations as other forms of transportation.

  37. I’m not a fan of the sort of zoning and planning that created the dead hearts called business districts in most major US cities”

    Ah, but was it zoning and planning that created those dead hearts? If so, that’d be one more indictment against the city planning profession.

    I’m not saying you’re entirely wrong, but you may be mistaking cause and effect. In any event, it’s not exactly clear what you mean by that statement.

    Try this on for a mental exercise: assume a workspace requires ~250 sq. feet per occupant. A residence will range from, what, 500 to 1,200 for that same person. So, for every new downtown worker, anywhere from twice to five times the floor space is needed to house that person.

    Now, Seattle expects 70,000 added downtown workers by 2020 or so. (That’s from their strategic plan.) That is equivalent to thirteen new Columbia Centers. All in that one square-mile patch called downtown.

    Is there room in that one square mile or along the periphery of that one square mile for new residential buildings equivalent in bulk to 26-65 additional Columbia Centers? (And this doesn’t scratch the surface for support services like groceries, utilities etc. which admittedly won’t require anywhere near as much floorspace per person as their residential needs but can’t be entirely assumed away. Plus this doesn’t provide any allowance for any new downtown residents who don’t work in downtown, but work elsewhere.)

    Is there enough room? Probably not — after all the periphery of downtown is quite land-constrained, owing to its location at the narrowest waist of Seattle’s hour-glass isthmus.

    Hence it becomes necessary to transport (pump) many of those new workers, daily, into and then back out again of those needed new downtown office buildings.

    That’s where ST comes in. It enables those 13 new Columbia Center-equivalent downtown office buildings to 1) be built and 2) to be accessed by those workers. (Certainly I-5 can’t provide that access any more.) ST thus allows downtown property owners to boost their rent-capture as a % of the growing region’s total and thus enjoy a sizable bump in their net worth. (P.S. This comes at exceedingly little cost to them, so they’re all for it.)

    But might there not be a more efficient and equitable alternative -a more economic solution- if say the number of new jobs in downtown were determined not by planning (which is the basis for that +70,000 figure) but instead was determined by economics (i.e. unsubsidized market prices) where private sector participants make investments and undertake the associated risk?

    To be sure, there’d have to be some public infrastructure investment, but probably not near to the scale required by ST’s plans.

    That’s my “utopia”. I don’t consider it to be a totalitarian state, nor the complete absence of publicly-financed transportation. This is not an “either or” world, but rather one that exists along a continuum. I simply believe we’ve erred too much toward one end of that continuum. I think that station-area bill was an example of such a ‘knee-jerk’ instinct.

    1. Cities have an incentive (tax revenue) to house work in their borders, why shouldn’t Seattle try to house jobs in their city? For the greater regional good? It’s unconvincing to me to argue that housing more jobs in Renton or Redmond or Bothell actually alleviates the need for new transportation infrastructure. You are arguing against centralization and why it’s good, but not how to get there and of course you have still not touched on how to encourage locality.

      (PS, I could be wrong, but I believe the “downtown” in Seattle planning docs includes Capitol Hill, First Hill, South Lake Union, etc.)

      1. Well, I’ve only lived here for about 5 years so I’m a little new to all this, but I believe “downtown” refers to the Central Business District while Seattle uses the term Center City to include the 10-neighborhood urban core. I guess it’s a little like the “City of London”.

        I can’t seem to find a reference right now (we’d all do well to reference more by the way) but I think I remember reading that City of Seattle wanted to add a roughly equal number of housing units and jobs to the Center City as part of the 2024 Comprehensive Plan. The PSRC presentation I linked above has only 22500 housing units vs 50750 jobs total but those numbers do not include the housing-rich Belltown, Denny Triangle, or International District. Of course given the existing 150000 job surplus in the Central Business District we would still need a lot of commuting options.

        Personally I’m hoping that SLU (which is going for LEED-ND by the way) will become a really livable dense neighborhood, but Vulcan seems to be doing their best to screw it up (just walk down Westlake on a Sunday–empty office buildings and closed ground-level retail). Sightline just did a piece on this issue: Communities and Agencies Struggle with Transit Service Cuts. “The shortest distance between two points is achieved by moving the points closer together.” –Richard Register

      2. Well, I’ve only lived here for about 5 years so I’m a little new to all this, but I believe “downtown” refers to the Central Business District while Seattle uses the term “Center City” to include the 10-neighborhood urban core. I guess it’s a little like the “City of London” isn’t really that much of the city of London.

        I can’t seem to find a reference right now (we’d all do well to reference more by the way) but I think I remember reading that City of Seattle wanted to add a roughly equal number of housing units and jobs to the Center City as part of the Seattle Comprehensive Plan. The PSRC presentation I linked above has only 22500 housing units vs 50750 jobs total but those numbers do not include the housing-rich Belltown, Denny Triangle, or International District. Of course given the existing 150000 job surplus in the Central Business District we would still need a lot of commuting options.

        Personally I’m hoping that SLU (which is going for LEED-ND by the way) will become a really livable dense neighborhood, but Vulcan seems to be doing their best to screw it up (just walk down Westlake on a Sunday–empty office buildings and closed ground-level retail). Sightline just did a piece on this issue: Communities and Agencies Struggle with Transit Service Cuts. “The shortest distance between two points is achieved by moving the points closer together.” –Richard Register

      3. Right, generally “Center City” includes “Downtown” but also Belltown, the ID, Pioneer Square, First Hill, SLU, and usually Lower Queen Anne (aka Uptown).

  38. I strongly suspect you are deliberately trolling, but against my better judgment I’ll answer anyway.

    P.S. you neglected to respond to financial dynamics were all transit agencies folded into one. Would that modify your ‘it can’t happen here’ view?

    That is a BS hypothetical. There is no movement to merge agencies. Even if they were merged the various inherited tax authorities would prevent mixing of funds. If the agency did it anyway the agency would be sued and lose. The exact restrictions would depend on the wording of the ballot measures that created the taxing authority. Also it is difficult to know what protections there would be in a hypothetical merger as there is no authorizing legislation or charter to review.

    I believe some have disputed that, drawing upon data from the National Transit Database. Such an assertion may depend on the characteristics of a system and is highly dependent on the level of ridership, is it not? In any event, I don’t think it’s guaranteed outcome. Wasn’t that the point of conducting alternatives analyses when seeking federal funding? Could you provide a link to your proof?

    Well the biggest savings come from the capability to move more people per operator (1 train with 800 people vs. 10 buses). Also from not using diesel fuel or having diesel engines and transmissions in each bus to maintain. No need to constantly replace tires either. Furthermore the vehicles have a longer service life than buses.

    However I will concede the specific numbers depend on the characteristics of the system, ridership, and average trip length. However I suspect Link will do quite well compared to buses as I believe the ridership estimates are fairly conservative and both Metro and ST Express buses have a higher than average operating cost.

    One factor that isn’t considered in the O&M costs of rail vs. buses is that right-of-way maintenance is mostly externalized for buses. In other words if buses are wearing the road surface on Third Avenue or University Way the city covers the cost of repair.

    Where, indeed? That route, which offered I believe 3 times the daily ridership as the Rainier Valley route to almost the airport, was set aside in 2000 when ST ‘discovered’ they didn’t have enough money to complete the 17-mile LRT line they had sold to the voters in 1996. Indeed, getting to the U and to Northgate required a second hike in their tax authority.

    The situation was a bit more complicated than that. First Sound Transit had always said more money would be needed to go North of 45th. Second the bid for the tunnel under Portage Bay came in much higher than expected and had a large amount of construction risk. Sound Transit decided to build from downtown to the airport while they re-evaluated the routing under the ship canal. U-Link is being built with the original Sound Move money. Sure U-District to Northgate required new tax authority but that was known long before the decision on what to build for the initial segment was changed.

    The agency has learned from that experience and has become much more conservative in its budgeting and its promises.

    But haven’t we learned from all this just how extraordinarily expensive it is to pump ever more people daily into downtown? Aren’t there alternative, more accessible, less costly-to-get-to places for many if not most or all of those new people can work? So why insist on pumping them from further and further out into a slender, land-starved isthmus? Who benefits from that?

    The demand to travel to downtown or the U District is already there. Sure I suppose the city could attempt to chase jobs out of the city, but really who is going to do that? Employers would continue to locate downtown for their own reasons without any additional transportation investment. Even if those jobs get shifted to outlying areas you just cause more congestion on routes like SR 167 or I-405. Dispersed suburban development is even harder to serve with transportation, especially transit. Outlying areas are not cheaper to get to in any real sense. How much is being spent widening I-405 for little gain? How easy is it to commute to Kent if one lives in Marysville? Woodinville if one lives in Federal Way? Redmond if one lives in Poulsbo?

    Indeed employment growth outside of the central city has much to do with the traffic congestion mess we find ourselves in.

    1. Oops, the above comment was in reply to (required) at 2009-04-06 05:28:55. For some reason it didn’t nest properly.

  39. Why does Parson-Brinckerhoff, ST and Metro continue to resort to transportation network modeling when all they need to do is just ask Chris Stefan? He’s got all the answers — even to how, when all these agencies are merged into a super agency, nothing at all will change from the current status quo. (He’s apparently already drafted the language for that legislation. Now he just needs to round up the votes. Oh, yeah — and get elected and win the committee chairmanship, too.)

    Chris also ignores the capital cost as part of the cost per passenger. Any assertion that “as a matter of record,”Mode X is more efficient/whatever on an operating & maintenance basis than Mode Y” does not translate into a finding that Mode X always dominates Mode Y in the presence of a large difference in the capital costs of those modes. Any such statement would rely upon whether the O&M savings per passenger offset the higher (for LRT much higher) capital cost per passenger. Until you do the math, you can’t make such a “for the record” claim.

    John recognizes that there’s competition among cities for economic development. So what? This *can* lead cities (and the region) down a rat-hole. Look up ‘fiscal zoning’; California cities have been engaged in this for decades. But each city seeking to better their neighbor doesn’t necessarily produce a better whole (region). Sure there are incentives, but are they *good* incentives?

    BTW: the figures I used in my Columbia Center equivalent example are strictly for downtown (a very nearly one square mile patch) and definitely *don’t* include Capitol Hill and First Hill. And they don’t include SLU, either. Only goes as far north as Denny Way.

    More info for Chris: back in the late 1980’s Metro’s fleet of articulated buses was found to exceed axle weight loadings on city streets. Even when empty. And they were wreaking much damage to city streets. Some legislators in Olympia were trying to subject these buses to the MVET tax, but that got shunted aside. I believe some accommodation was reached short of Metro paying MVET on its bus fleet. So, it’s not clear that wear and tear on streets *isn’t* included in all National Transit Database cost data — and even if it were, that wouldn’t prevent anyone from layering it on. It’s probably not as significant as you may think.

    “Indeed employment growth outside of the central city has much to do with the traffic congestion mess we find ourselves in.”

    Like I said earlier, why do modeling when Chris has all the answers?

    1. But each city seeking to better their neighbor doesn’t necessarily produce a better whole (region). Sure there are incentives, but are they *good* incentives?

      I never said they were: I was presenting a reality that runs counter to the realistic implementation your solution. Yet you continue to give no policy prescription of how to accomplish your vision. While you assail Chris for not quoting from a .pdf nor funding his own, for the past two days you have been unable to describe any sort of policy or government intervention to do what you want. Chris is opening himself to criticism by digging into specifics and sane policy analysis. You, on the other hand, are saying nothing.

      Like I said earlier, why do modeling when Chris has all the answers?

      Similarly, where are your models and anything besides naked assertions?

      Everyone has put up with enough condescension to have to deal with continued distractions and non-answers. You want less investment in expensive transportation infrastructure by having a region where people work closer to where they live. Again, how?

  40. I was so bowled-over by that last statement by Chris Stefan I neglected to say that his statement contains so many untested and hidden assumptions that I simply wouldn’t know where to begin to untangle his thinking. And I won’t waste my time attempting to do so. It’s an amazing assertion. He seems to specialize in them.

    1. First, knock it off with the ad hominem attacks. You’ve been warned by the owners of the blog multiple times and making personal attacks does nothing to improve your arguments.

      Second, weak as my arguments may be, I’m willing to sign my name to them. Perhaps you should consider doing the same.

  41. “Chris is opening himself to criticism by digging into specifics and sane policy analysis.”

    That’s far from apparent to me. How did you arrive at that conclusion (or should I say “naked assertion”?) Is that because he precedes his ‘points’ with “for the record”? Yeah, I was impressed too.

    I sense you guys have circled your wagons in response to my arrows. I’m moving on, but you folks might want to keep your eyes open. There are a lot of facts out there waiting to trip you up. On your pilgrimage to Mecca, you can’t just pretend they don’t exist….

    1. What arrows? I have re-read all of your comments, and while I agree with some and disagree with others I still fail to understand what solution you have in mind. I have a hunch that you are talking about “telematics.” You claim to have presented a new paradigm, yet you have failed to elucidate your paradigm. And does that paradigm really matter if nobody adopts it? Shifting the civilization pattern paradigm is not as simple as, say, shifting paradigms in art or literature. For the most part cities have grown up organically the world over and I don’t really see that pattern changing any time soon. If anything the densification of cities is accelerating and it has little to do with zoning or government mandated land use.

      The best thing we could do here to minimize transportation costs would be to eliminate any restrictions on density within cities. The best transportation system would combine modes into a tree-shaped system where the outer branches are low- to medium capacity modes (cars, busses, bikes, Segways, whatever) feeding into a high-capacity trunk. In my opinion rail is currently the best mode to serve as the trunk in this model, it has the highest throughput with the smallest footprint. I think that this transportation model can easily be incorporated into the land-use patterns that are already in place in this region and would serve to concentrate jobs into areas that are temporally close to the largest number of workers. In addition, I don’t think that any of the contributors to this blog believe, or have ever argued, that it is possible, or reasonable to create a “ubiquitous” light rail network to supplant the already existing road network.

  42. weak as my arguments may be, I’m willing to sign my name to them. Perhaps you should consider doing the same”

    Sorry, but unlike you and your friends here, I don’t like to sign my name to weak arguments.

    Besides, what would the addition of a sequence of, oh say, ten to thirty letters of the alphabet add to, subtract from or otherwise effect the value of what I offer here? I fail to see how it possibly could.

    1. So, Ms. Required.

      I haven’t seen you make a valid argument for roads, especially after the previous comment you made:

      “You might find those other modes you list actually perform quite well against the favorite mode of the bloggers here. One major reason is that those road-based modes utilize the already-built (but that’s not to say there are no problems with it) street, road and highway network. A network that is quite extensive and ubiquitous, which is *vastly* different from what any network rail will/can ever achieve given the uncomfortable fact that money is finite (just like there’s a limit to the depth of taxpayers pockets, too.)”

      Don’t you have confidence in your numbers?

      Jim

    2. “Sorry, but unlike you and your friends here, I don’t like to sign my name to weak arguments.”

      Now that’s funny. It sure explains a lot.

      1. Yeah, it explains that 1) I don’t offer weak arguments and 2) I don’t like to put my name to such.

        And, as to “numbers” (in which you suggested I had no confidence before you now elevated your demand to “plans”), I stand behind the numbers I’ve used. I think you’ll find I’ve offered more numbers than anyone else in this entire thread.

        I even stand behind the one hypothetical, “say, 90%”, that I used. I stand behind that because I was using it to illustrate a point, one that seems to have gone over everyone’s head. Either that or no one had an answer, flip or otherwise, to the quandary it posed.

        You all can talk about how many people can be carried in a four-car LINK train (a crush load that happens maybe 2-3 times a day in any given train-set, not all day long), but you can’t extend such physical capacity calculations to a one square mile patch of downtown. That’s not surprising because it’s obvious you haven’t thought about that, just as you haven’t thought of the economics implied in it (several dimensions, in fact).

        [Deleted, ad-hominem] That’s why I said “don’t you have any confidence in your position?” I haven’t seen any defense mounted. [Deleted, spoofing editorial comments]

        So don’t strike a “I am anxious to see your plans” pose, as if I am a supplicant to your throne. You don’t sit on one — unless its in some imaginary land where emperors parade in only the finest of garments for all to see and behold. (Besides, the correct word is “eager”. Unless you really mean “anxious”, which implies uncertainty.)

        Oh, why do I bother to write these replies, since with one click of a mouse these electrons will soon be returned to the ether, just like books were in Fahrenheit 451?

        P.S. I didn’t appreciate the “Ms.” either.

      2. I have no idea of your gender, hence the ‘MS’.
        I have no idea who you are.
        You hide behind your anonymity.

        I’m giving you the chance to defend your road based agenda.

        It’s telling that you are reluctant to present anything in that regard, but apparently feel that your ‘arrows’ directed at statements presented by others are of great importance.

        “Yeah, it explains that 1) I don’t offer weak arguments and 2) I don’t like to put my name to such.”

        I’m not sure you even re-read the previous statement before you posted that.

        Enjoy your day.

        Jim

      3. Where was my ‘road based agenda’? I simply stated (or implied) that the ubiquitous street/road network is very valuable to the region and its function cannot possibly be replicated or replaced by rail.

        Lots of folks like to pick and choose certain comparisons between rail and other modes (bus, car, etc.) and by “cherry-picking” what are transitory figures, they like to righteously claim that rail dominates the others. But that ignores so many other relevant service dimensions (think about that telephone analogy), it leads to drawing many wrong conclusions and, in the end, is (self-)deception.

        I think you’re probably intelligent enough to grasp this as a possibility. You should strive to understand the benefits -and the limitations- of all modes.

        What’s ‘telling’ is your desire to 1) mis-read what people write; 2) impugn others for not presenting a ‘plan’ (where’s yours? aren’t you hiding behind what’s presently on the table?) and 3) cast aspersions on the thoughts of others who simply decline to yield their name.

        Again, my name is of no import. And my largely conceptual posts/observations don’t obligate me to present a plan. The absence of a plan has no bearing on the truth of my observations.

        I’m gonna bury the axe and head off to other tasks that await me. Have a good Easter. Don’t eat too much candy — it’ll rot your teeth. ;-)

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